Following years of debate, researchers are determined to find out whether London should create safe injection sites for drug users.
The Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, in partnership with the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, is launching a feasibility study on the controversial sites that public health officials have long championed for saving lives.
Last month, Heath Canada gave the green light for a second safe-injection site in Vancouver, 14 years after their HIV-AIDS treatment facility began allowing patients to shoot up their own illicit drugs.
The sites offer clean needles to users, nurses to intervene in case of overdose, and other health services that can help begin the recovery process.
Research has shown these sites can save lives and improve the health of the community by preventing the spread of diseases but many remain opposed to them, concerned about the sites attracting criminal activity.
Large cities like Toronto and Ottawa have already done this kind of feasibility study, but London and Thunder Bay will be the first small to mid-sized cities to conduct one.
Surveys have been distributed to some injection drug users in London, asking them various questions including what drugs they use and where, what health precautions they take, how far they’d go to get to a safe site, and whether they’d use other health services at the same time.
Once those are finished, researchers will start gathering input. They’ll interview community stakeholders, like police and neighbourhood associations, before inviting residents to share their feedback at townhall-style meetings.
Officials hope to schedule those in the summer or fall, and present the results of the study soon after.