Saturday, August 14, 2010

Safe Injection Sites: France Not Convinced

France rejects "safe injection rooms"

As Vancouver's InSite continues to be quietly controversial, the French government has decided not to adopt them as part of a French harm prevention strategy.

French Prime Minister Francois Filon -- represnting the Union for a Popular Movement party -- has rejected a move by his government's Minister of Health, Roselyne Bachelot to open the so-called "shooting rooms", where hard drug users will be able to inject under supervised conditions.

For her own part, Bachelot is not prepared to let this matter go away quietly.

“A study has confirmed the benefit of these supervised injection centres where heavily addicted drug users can go to avoid contamination from viruses like hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS,” Bachelot insisted.

Bachelot isn't the only one prepared to go to bat for the shooting rooms.

Secretary of State for Families Nadine Morano suggested that the shooting rooms would help users get off of drugs. “When drug addicts are able to take their drugs under supervision and if we manage to get them off drugs, I think we will have won a battle.”

If the shooting rooms proposed by Bachelot feature on-site detox centres, as does Vancouver's InSite, Morano may have a valid point.

The other issue clearly linked to safe injection sites is the matter of crime.

Yet a 2008 study by Simon Fraser University Professor Neil Boyd actually found that InSite has had no adverse affect on crime rates in the surrounding neighbourhood, and that InSite had improved public order due to a significant reduction in discarded needles in the neighbourhood.

Many argue that Canada's Conservative government hasn't weighed the evidence regarding InSite carefully enough -- and they have a point. While stronger measures to get InSite users into detox and long-term treatement may be in order, InSite has succeeded as a harm reduction measure.

Safe injection sites such as InSite and the shooting rooms proposed by Roselyne Bachelot currently operate in 45 cities in eight countries. They also function in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Australia, Norway, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. In each of these countries they can claim similar successes.

Francois Filon is being misguided and short-sighted in ruling out safe injection sites so quickly.

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