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Conservative bill to increase hurdles for opening supervised injection sites

A new bill is in its second reading at the federal committee level that would change the application process for cities that want a supervised injection site within their borders.

There is some concern among advocates the bill will make it next to impossible to succeed in an application.

The new application process, if approved, would require stats about drug-related litter, crime, nuisance, overdose deaths as well as letters of recommendation from the mayor, police chief, medical officer of health and every community group with an interest in harm reduction.

All of those statistics are collected by either the Ottawa Police or by Ottawa Public Health.

Supervised injection site advocate Dr. Mark Tyndall says the letters of recommendation will be harder to come by.

"Some of those key spokespeople have already come out in opposition to a site so it's going to be a major challenge for Ottawa to get all those things in line." he said.

Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau have both spoken of their opposition to a supervised injection site in Ottawa but the city's chief medical officer of health has not made his stance on them known.

That's in part because Dr. Isra Levy would insist on launching a full investigation before completing a report that would offer the official stance of Ottawa Public Health.

In the meantime Andrew Hendriks, a nurse with Ottawa Public Health, says the city is already providing successful harm reduction services for users of hard drugs including their SITE program.

"It's not just about providing supplies, it's about providing nursing support, it's about working with outreach workers, it's about referring people to services in the community, whether it's housing services, treatment services, addictions services, so the actual encounter itself is very important at being the starting point for beginning that relationship with people," said Hendriks.

He said supervised injection sites are considered part of a continuum of care that includes a range of services from mental health care to housing and more but it's possible to provide effective harm reduction without one.

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