Insite, Vancouver's Controversial Supervised Drug-Injection Facility, Can Stay Open Indefinitely, Says Canada's Supreme Court

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Good news today for Vancouver, B.C.'s huge population of drug addicts--and really for the country's health-care system as a whole.

It appears that addicts will get to keep showing up at a government-subsidized facility in Vancouver's lower east side to inject drugs like heroin in front of trained medical professionals.

Insite, the revolutionary "supervised injection site" that I wrote about back in May, is run by Vancouver Coastal Health, and had been under attack by the new Conservative Party majority that swept into power after Canada's historic last election. There had been serious questions over whether the government would force it to shut down.

Instead, Canada's Supreme Court decided in a 9-0 decision that the site can stay open indefinitely.

Insite has been a baby of liberals and health professionals who point to its ability to decrease the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and to educate addicts in ways to get clean.

Meanwhile, the facility has also been demonized by conservatives who view it as state-sponsored drug use that only coddles addicts and gives them no reason to quit using drugs.

Insite has been operating since 2003 and claims to have supervised 1.8 million injections with no overdose deaths, despite treating some 1,500 overdose patients.

Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health tells me that the Supreme Court's decision is a big win for health care in Canada.

"Yes, we're very pleased, especially because it was a unanimous decision. It doesn't mean we will see supervised injection sites opening on every street corner. If others want to open they have to prove the same things we did here at Insite," Daly says. "We hadn't been able to make plans about the future because we were in a kind of legal limbo. Now we can have those conversations. We can look into providing these services elsewhere."

 
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