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Today's Big Story

Sullivan Backs Insite, For Now

New plan to complement, not replace site, says spokesman.

By Sunny Freeman 13 Jun 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Sunny Freeman is on staff at The Tyee.

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It seems these days there is no drug plan Sam Sullivan doesn’t like. The Vancouver mayor who famously gave prostitutes money to buy heroin as a city councilor is now throwing his support behind a new legal drug substitution program. But, despite reports to the contrary, he is not turning away from InSite, the city’s trial safe site, according to David Hurford, the director of communications for the mayor’s office.

Instead, Sullivan will introduce concurrent motions in Council chambers this week. He plans to restate City Council's support for a renewal of InSite's Health Canada permit and call for the implementation of a drug substitution program labeled Chronic Addiction Substitution Treatment (CAST).

“It’s not an either/or scenario between CAST and InSite," said Hurford, "we want to explore both options to be as innovative as possible to deal with the city’s drug problem."

The mayor, who last week told the Vancouver Sun that he "would never see [the injection site] as a long-term solution” now plans to launch a full scale campaign to keep InSite open, Hurford said.

Sullivan continues to lobby Prime Minister Harper and Federal Health Minister Tony Clement to extend InSite’s exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. But the Federal Conservatives continue to delay the decision to keep Vancouver’s safe injection site open while speculation mounts that it will get the axe under their new drug strategy.

Ultimately, Sullivan hopes that CAST will work to get people off needles. He believes that once the legal drug substitution program is fully implemented, InSite, which has showed positive results , should no longer be necessary.

But Vancouver Costal Health, InSite’s governing body, does not think CAST will jeopardize the future of the facility. “I don’t see the injection site closing as a result of CAST, like everyone else we’re just waiting to see what happens because even the mayor is still speculating on it,” said Laurie Dawkins, director of public affairs for VCH.

Before CAST can even get off the ground, however, it must first be approved by Health Canada. The proposed research trial would work with addicted people to change their drug habits from illegal street drugs to legally available, orally-administered prescription medications. The treatment trial would study 1,000 heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine users over 18 months. There are over 7,000 injection drug users currently registered at InSite, according to Vancouver Coastal Health.  [Tyee]

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