U.S. police chiefs tour Insite
BC-CfE researchers highlight clinical and social benefits of supervised injection facility
The British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) provided senior U.S. law-enforcement officers with a unique first-hand look at the benefits of harm reduction this week.
Between April 13 and 15, approximately 30 police chiefs from all corners of the United States were guided through Insite, North America's first supervised injection facility, by BC-CfE director Dr. Julio Montaner and Dr. Thomas Kerr, co-director of the BC-CfE's Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative. The chiefs, who were in Vancouver to attend a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), received an overview of Insite's history and operating procedures, as well as the opportunity to observe the injection room in use. The group also surveyed Insite's medical facilities and toured detox rooms in the adjacent Onsite.
Throughout the tours, Dr. Kerr and Dr. Montaner highlighted the many benefits Insite has brought to clients and the community. The BC-CfE's scientific evaluation of Insite has shown the facility significantly decreases overdose risk and HIV risk behaviour while promoting addiction treatment and improving public order. Insite has also been shown to link clients to vital medical services and improve safety for women who inject drugs.
Dr. Montaner reinforced the case for Insite's clinical and social benefits in a presentation to the IACP conference on April 14. In his remarks, Dr. Montaner highlighted new data confirming Insite's success in reducing overdose deaths in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He also stressed the important role played by the BC-CfE's Seek and Treat pilot project in reducing HIV transmission among injection drug users and other at-risk populations.
Dr. Montaner acknowledged the discomfort felt by many law-enforcement officials unfamiliar with supervised injection, but emphasized the overwhelming evidence base supporting Insite.
"What we're doing is reducing the harm to the individual and society – our data show that," said Dr. Montaner. "We've shown that every marker we have monitored has been improved. It's clear that Insite is saving lives and making a tremendously positive impact in the community. This is a valuable resource for addressing addiction and health issues in the Downtown Eastside, and we must continue to support it."