April 13, 2012
Research results announced Wednesday tout the benefits Toronto could realize by opening three supervised injection facilities. However, numerous key officials maintain reservations about permitting facilities where illicit drugs, such as heroin, are taken in a clean environment supervised by trained personnel.
The long-awaited Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment (TOSCA) study indicated that opening the facilities would lower public drug use, prevent new HIV and hepatitis C infections, and be an excellent health care investment. It did not propose locations for the three Toronto sites or the two suggested for Ottawa.
Co-principal researcher Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, from the Center for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael's Hospital, said the facilities could "offer meaningful improvements for the health of people who use drugs," and "make neighborhoods where drug use is common more livable."
Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday wondered whether sites would "just attract more problems," and asked to review the data supporting the study's conclusion, as well as to hear opinions of other experts and learn the results experienced by cities that host injection sites. Likewise, Toronto Board of Health Chair John Filion questioned whether enough research indicated the sites were "the way to go with Toronto."
Gord Perks, chair of the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Task Force, supports the findings. "The evidence is clear -- supervised injection sites save money, save lives, and improve the quality of our neighborhoods."
Noting "issues that have arisen" around Vancouver's injection site, Police Chief Bill Blair added, "I don't know of any place in Toronto where that couldn't have a significant negative impact on the communities." Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he will defer to experts' decision on sites for his province.
"We have no plans to pursue supervised sites at this time," said Toronto Health Minister Deb Mathews.