Vancouver, B.C., To Offer Heroin, Establish Legal Injection Site for Drug Users
The Seattle Times on Monday profiled Vancouver, British Columbia's plans to take the "widely adopted idea of needle exchange even further" and offer heroin to "hundreds of chronic addicts" at "state-of-the-art, federally sanctioned" injection facilities. Almost one-third of the 16,000 people living in the city's downtown Eastside neighborhood are injection drug users, and the city has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in North America, according to the Times. In addition, an "astonishingly high" 15% of the city's injection drug users are HIV-positive, compared with 1% in Pierce County, Washington, home to the first needle-exchange program in the United States, the Times reports. The country's medical system pays a high cost to treat drug overdose and HIV infection -- $368,000 annually for emergency drug overdose calls and $100,000 annually for each new HIV case -- which made voters lean toward "a more liberal approach" to solving the problem of drug use and HIV/AIDS, the Times reports. A group of current and former drug users are pressuring Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell to follow through on a promise to open a drug injection site, but the group is frustrated that he has been "slower than expected" in opening the site, according to the Times. Anne Livingston, project coordinator for the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, which runs an injection site, said, "This will go down in history as a time when we saw thousands and thousands of people die" from HIV/AIDS and drug overdoses (Martin, Seattle Times, 6/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.