Montreal is opening up two supervised injection sites (SIS) for intravenous drug users. Should we be satisfied with this victory?
True, an SIS responds to many needs. It minimizes negative outcomes for society in general as well as for the individual user. It limits the spread of infections.
But in Montreal, there is still more to do to.
Vancouver’s SIS, Insite, was North America’s first, founded in 2003. On the second floor of Insite, there’s a detox centre. It acts as sort of a temporary holding facility.
It’s a safe place where the junkie doesn’t have to go back to the streets while waiting for a permanent place in a larger detox centre. The user simply has to signal that they want to get clean and say “Yes, I want in,” and they will be immediately taken in on the second floor.
This gives the user a way out of their street situation. Quite often, their pimp or their pusher will go to great lengths to keep the junkie in circulation on the street, which means their chances of weaning them of their substance of choice becomes zero.
Getting junkies to kick their habit is a key component of the process of reducing the risks to society.
True, Quebec’s new SIS sites have privileged relations with detox centres (centres de réadaptation in French). If a user signals that they want a place in such a centre, they can be transported to a temporary detox site within the hour, to await a place in a long-term therapy centre.
But an hour in the life of a junkie can seem like an eternity… Even if accompanied by an intervener, on the way to the vehicle that will take them away, don’t they run the risk of locking eyes with someone from their street milieu? Just one look can melt away every good intention of changing one’s lifestyle for the better…
Montreal should go the extra mile and mimic Vancouver’s setup.