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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
She used to work in a diner / never saw a woman look finer / I used to order just to watch her float across the floor
— Neil Young, Unknown Legend
September 21, 2004
Our safe injection site is working…

According to today’s Vancouver Sun, our safe injection site has “exceeded expectations” and is “making a difference” after only a year of operation.

Tell that to the people who live in the area.

Lately, I’ve been riding my bike down to the corner of Main & Hastings late at night; if the safe injection site is working, the problem must be worse than we ever thought it was. This place really is a war zone.

Vancouver’s drug policy coordinator Donald MacPherson says that “anecdotal evidence suggests that the site is a success” according to the sun. The great thing about anecdotal evidence is that it’s easy to make it match your expectations.

This is one of those issues where I agree with Randy White: there truly is no such thing as a safe injection site. While I tacitly agree with the principal of “harm reduction”, one of the major problems here is that safe injection sites have been equated with harm reduction.

The first question that needs to be asked is what are the goals of safe injection sites?

In my mind, the goal is to get people off drugs: this implies that the safe injection site needs to be referring people to counselling and tracking their progress. No matter how you shake the statistics, a one year time period is simply not enough to evaluate success on this measure. Drug addiction is a lifelong problem, and a year is far from a lifetime.

Many define the goal as saving lives: if this is the case, it may be impossible to define success. It’s impossible to know whether or not people are injecting because they have access to the clean room, and impossible to know who would have overdosed outside. Over a period of years it may be possible to build up enough statistical data to demonstrate an overall reduction in overdose deaths, but again a year is simply not enough.

Some might define the goal as education: this is a placebo, and not one that needs to be achieved by a safe injection site.

Pot smokers are now looking for a safe inhalation room; other drug users are looking for their safe rooms. Quite simply, if the act is defined as criminal this is a slippery slope for police and the justice system. How can we tell children that drugs aren’t safe when the legal system has a loophole that permits people to use them?

To be sure, my anecdotal evidence is as invalid as MacPherson’s, but as I said I’ve been riding through that neighbourghood: it’s not safe. If the last year represents progress, I’m not sure I want to stick around for the next few. I don’t like getting caught on slippery slopes.

Posted by skooter at 11:25 AM This entry is filed under Politics, Vancouver.

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