Rob Dekker has asked "Who Are We Protecting? Who Should We Be Protecting?" The answer is simple: "Not everyone. Everyone."
Rob does good work in the community with Daybreak Housing (go donate) and he makes a reasonable suggestion that we should focus on housing and existing programs. He's putting out a defensible opinion. (This is better than Conservative MP Pierre Poliver who either lies intentionally or is straight up ignorant when he says a safe injection site will give dangerous drugs to users). I happen to disagree with Dekker though.
It comes down to this: should we do more of what we're doing (yes) or start doing something we're not doing at all (also yes).
For several years I worked in downtown Vancouver and regularly walked through the downtown-eastside to get to various lunch destinations. On my way for pho I'd see people injecting drugs on store front steps in plain daylight. Needles? Discarded in the street. Overdose risk? High. Local property crime? Already happening. Human tragedy? Not hard to find. This was before Insite opened.
Ottawa is not the downtown-eastside by any means, but we do have problems and a safe injection site will help people who currently fall through the cracks. Dr. Mark Tyndall explains in the Ottawa Citizen:
“We have very high rates of HIV in the city, very high overdose rates, a lot of people that are disconnected from any health services. This is exactly what the supervised injection site addresses.”
Will a safe injection end drug use in Ottawa. Certainly not. Will it save a life because an overdose is averted? Yes. Will Ottawa save money by avoiding some overdose 911 calls? Yes. Will some people stop falling through the cracks because they start getting health care at a safe injection site for the first time in a long time? Yes.
Should we also work on improving our existing programs as Rob suggests. Yes.
But right now we're not able to help everyone and we should. Drug addiction is a health issue and it's impossible to help someone who's dead because they dangerously injected drugs in a dangerous environment.
Supervised injection sites are safe environments for drug users to inject dangerous drugs (which, I remind, are not given to them). They are an entry point for marginalized people to gain access to broader health care, free from judgement. They will save lives and save money. First responders will be freed up to save other lives instead of responding to overdose calls.
We're not protecting everyone today. We should.