Injection sites should be supported – opinion/letters – Re: Three drug injection sites recommended for Toronto, two in Ottawa, April 11
Published On Sat Apr 14 2012.   Emile Therien

It is absolutely critical that the cities of Ottawa and Toronto get on-board and support safe injection sites. Safe injection sites reduce the chances police officers will be exposed to HIV in the course of their work.

This fact is recognized by many police services in the United States. A case in point: the Atlantic City, New Jersey police in December 2008 supported that city’s then new needle exchange program primarily because it reduces the odds their members will be exposed to HIV infection in their work. For the record, in the U.S. all states now have needle exchange programs.

An important concern at hand for police services is the health and safety of their members. For police administrations and police unions, this should be a workplace safety issue. They must not put the health and safety of police officers at risk.

Those in the policing community who oppose these sites should reconsider the horrific consequences of their opposition to a proven, cost-effective, evidence-based program that reduces the harmful side effects of drug use, and in the process enhances the safety of police officers and other emergency workers. It should be noted that based on scientific evidence, the Vancouver Police Department supported the continuance of that city’s supervised injection site.

It is about time we start treating drug use and drug addiction for what it is, namely a public health problem. And when evidence-based research shows harm reduction programs, including safe injection sites, are good for public health, everyone — politicians, police services, and other concerned organizations and individuals — should take note.

Emile Therien, Public Health & Safety Advocate, Ottawa

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