Winnipeg could create supervised consumption site without province: report
A new report suggests the City of Winnipeg could move forward with a supervised drug consumption site without the province, but funding could be a barrier.
The city’s protection committee ordered the study on the feasibility of a supervised consumption site (SCS), also known as a safe injection site.
It concludes the facilities can reduce drug use but says location, sufficient resources, and “alignment” with other services to support health and recovery are critical to a site’s success.
The province is responsible for health services and the current conservative government has expressed opposition to these sites.
The report said the federal government supports the creation of supervised consumption sites and can offer exemptions to communities where the province is not involved. It also suggests there is no provincial law preventing the establishment of a site.
“While the Province of Manitoba has not supported (supervised consumption sites), there is also no specific legislation that would create any greater impediment either,” states the report.
However, the report shows in all other Canadian jurisdictions with these consumption sites, the federal and provincial governments are both involved.
“Support from other levels of government are typically required for a site to operate sustainably,” states the report. “For instance, in a medicalized model of supervised consumption services, provinces would support sites in the form of funding as healthcare is administered at the provincial level.”
The report said some of those services include access to clean drug use equipment, emergency care in case of overdoses, testing for infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, and drug treatment referrals.
The report identifies federal funding that could be applied for, but says no provincial streams were identified.
It also says agencies in Winnipeg already providing informal harm reduction services would be best suited to operate a safe consumption site with the city supporting them through grants, the use of paramedics, and public education campaigns.
Councillor Sherri Rollins, who chairs the protection committee, said the city needs to continue pushing the province to support the creation of supervised consumption sites in Winnipeg.
“The immediate barrier to saving lives against drug poisoning in our city is the lack of harm reduction focus from this government,” said Rollins.
In the meantime, Rollins says she will be tabling a motion at the committee next week asking the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service to share data with the community agencies on where overdoses are happening.