Statistics ranging from 2006-2016 reveal that there’s been 400 deaths in the city related to overdose. The Middlesex-London Health Unit showed an increase in infectious diseases from 22-23 cases to 59 cases in 2016. While the number of infectious disease went down to 39 cases last year, the unit is responding to the issue by implementing safe consumption sites in the city.
Shaya Dhinsa is the manager of sexual health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. Dhinsa says that by having safe consumption sites, Londoners have access to clean needles and are able to dispose of them properly. They are also able to take needles for those who are afraid to come in and get them themselves. Sharing needles makes people vulnerable to the transmission of infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. Dhinsa says that by having these sites “they get more education around safe injection, they leave and when they come in they’re getting clean supplies, there’s opportunities for education. There’s also a decrease in transmission of sexually transmitted infections, there’s statistics around a decrease in crime, increase in referrals to other programs such as addiction services or mental health supports. Whatever that client may need they now have.”
When XFM News asked about the costs of having the site, Dhinsa says that considering the increase in infectious diseases and the problem of overdosing, opening a safe injection site is the most economical decision. ” One case of HIV costs us 7.5 million dollars and each Hepatitis C case is 70-thousand dollars, there’s also endocarditis – they’re not reportable diseases but people get infections of the heart valve, those are in acute care settings and there’s costs to the health cares system that way.” Dhinsa hopes that last year’s shift from 2016’s 59 to 2017’s 39 cases of infectious diseases has something to do with the work the unit’s outreach team is doing.
The health unit allowed Londoners the opportunity to share how they feel about the sites. Dhinsa says that while there are concerned citizens, what they want is for all Londoners to feel safe. The other concern is to have the sites have the necessary resources to help people using these facilities. “People really want an integrated site, they don’t want where you can go in, inject, and leave they actually want programs and services to be integrated, so that when that person is ready to engage in connecting to different resources they’re there.” Those resources could include mental health supports, addiction services, indigenous support, housing, a peer navigator- someone who’s been through the process that could connect someone to their way out and a systems navigator- an outreach team that can connect if they want testing for HIV.”
A temporary site is opening Monday February 12th at the Regional HIV/AIDs connection, located at 186 King street. There have been no decisions made on where or when a permanent safe consumption site will be established.