Late Friday afternoon (PST) Health Canada tried to quietly release the Final report of the Expert Advisory Committee on Supervised Injection Site Research. (Since government reports are public domain I’ve created a downloadable, easier to read, PDF version that can be found here).
Why quietly release such an upbeat report? Because the Health Minister is ideologically committed to closing Insite. Unfortunately for him, the report confirms what researchers and scientists have been telling us all along: that Insite works.
Consequently, for what must be the first time in Health Canada’s history the department is trying to bury a study that highlights how one of its programs improves healthcare outcomes to Canada’s most marginalized citizens.
Ah, the irony.
Well, one can’t blame him. The Minister simple doesn’t want anyone to know that his own hand picked experts have robbed him of any scientific basis for ending the program.
Below are some of the report’s highlights about how INSITE benefits the public:
- INSITE encourages users to seek counseling, detoxification and treatment. Such activities have contributed to an increased use of detoxification services and increased engagement in treatment. Translation: INSITE helps drug users get off drugs.
- Observations taken 6 weeks before and 12 weeks after the opening of INSITE indicated a reduction in the number of people injecting in public. Translation: INSITE gets drug users off the streets, making the safer and more community friendly.
- There was no evidence of increases in drug-related loitering, drug dealing or petty crime in areas around INSITE. Translation: INSITE doesn’t increase crime.
- A private security company contracted by the Chinese Business Association reported reductions in crime in the Chinese business district in a surrounding area outside the DTE. Analysis of police data for the DTE and surrounding areas showed no changes in rates of crime recorded by police. Translation: INSITE definitely doesn’t increase crime.
- There is no evidence that INSITE influence rates of drug use in the community or increase relapse rates among injection drug users. Translation: INSITE doesn’t encourage drug use.
- Every dollar spent on INSITE saved 0.97 to 2.90 in government spending on other services. Translation: INSITE saves taxpayers dollars – especially in heathcare costs.
These benefits are significant. However, the Conservatives spin machine is already hard at work. Specifically, it is trying to use this line – out of context – to support its claim that INSITE is ineffective:
“The injections at INSITE account for less than 5% of injections in the Downtown Eastside. This limits the likelihood of significant direct impact from INSITE in the Downtown Eastside.”
However, since the report also points out (contrary to what James Moore has misleadingly telling his constituents) that:
“An average of more than 600 visits a day shows that INSITE operates near capacity.”
The report isn’t arguing that INSITE is ineffective, it’s simply pointing out that it isn’t large enough to meet the demand. This is akin to claiming that a hospital should be declared “ineffective” and shut down because the people it didn’t have the capacity to serve were still dying of heart attacks.
The Conservatives now have two months before the June deadline they created to decide: are they going to shut down a program that reduces drug addiction and saves the public money?