So it’s finally happened. After a recommendation was made in 2011, the city has finally stopped being distracted by corrupt mayors, collapsing bridges and the mob long enough to listen to cries for a safe injection site like the ones in Vancouver. (Pictured above.)
Like everywhere though, opinions on the sites are mixed, from where they should be, to whether we should have them at all.
Downtown residents in the past have voiced concerns about the injection sites attracting drugs and violence to their neighbourhoods. To counter this concern, Montreal’s mayor, Gerald Tremblay says that the safe injection sites should be based in hospitals and clinics instead of in need exchange sites like ‘Cactus’ a needle exchange site IV drug users are already comfortable with. Tremblay says that Cactus’ location is already over saturated with drug addicts, homeless people, and street involved folks with mental health struggles, whereas hospital sites will spread out the issue across several locations, and hopefully alleviate the concerns of those who live down town.
The thing is, what Tremblay is saying doesn’t actually make any sense when you consider the actual goals of safe injection sites, and Health officials agree his ideas don’t gel with the reality of our situation as a city.
Public health authorities have already conducted extensive research on the issue, including surveying IV users themselves. The survey determined only 37% of IV drug users would use the hospital location sites, whereas if they were at existing locations like Cactus, 96% of IV drug users would make use of the sites. Since the point of safe injection sites is to keep users and those around them safe with clean needles and needle disposal, you would think setting up a location users would be comfortable with would be the ultimate goal. Yet something as basic as this has become the major stumbling block for proceeding with a service sorely needed in our city.
While Montreal has always had a progressive reputation, and the mayor and his staff are accepting the sites, Tremblay needs to understand that simply putting the sites in place will not make them effective. Creating a service users will find inaccessible will essentially help no one, making the sites themselves a very expensive and very hollow gesture.