Instead of overlooking the true issue of drug addiction in Chatham-Kent and participating in the stigma that surrounds it, our community must be proactive. Now is our opportunity to help individuals suffering from drug addiction and prevent needless overdoses while simultaneously protecting public health.

Last year in Canada there were 2458 opioid related overdose deaths (two every day in Ontario), all which were preventable. Some readers may turn a blind eye to this statistic and argue, “who cares?” and “better for the rest of us”. My question for those people is, when did we lose our sense of community? When did we become so individualistic that our judgment of others has clouded our ability to feel empathy?

With the recent amendments to Bill C-37 put in place by our Liberal government, which makes the process of applying for safe consumption sites easier, now is the time to counterattack the rising opioid trend and provide drugs users with a safe injection site.

Opioid use in Chatham-Kent affects a significant portion of our population and heavier drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are becoming the norm. Before this trend escalates, we must follow the lead of our major Canadian cities (Vancouver and Toronto) and advocate for a safe consumption site in Chatham-Kent to provide a more progressive approach to drug addiction.

“Insite”, which is the name of Vancouver’s site, last year alone had 1,781 overdose interventions saving the lives of suffering individuals. Yes, they are suffering. Because of the stigma that surrounds drug addiction, this may seem like a waste of money and resources to many in our community. But to reiterate, these individuals are struggling, many from mental illnesses, and are continually chastised for not having the “normal” coping mechanisms to control their lives. This safe injection site would allow for accessible, sanitary and safe means of using illicit substances, as well as provide a friendly environment free of judgment for staff members to actively engage with drug users. Having staff onsite trained in harm reduction techniques would allow addicts access to learn new strategies, be connected to other treatment services, and provide a glimpse of hope for them to realize their potential to overcome their addiction.

You may still feel this idea of allowing people to use illegal drugs in an organized legal facility is ludicrous. Won’t this encourage drug use?

Statistics have shown in Vancouver that there has not been a substantial increase in drug use because of the opening of the legal injection site. The truth of the matter is that a safe consumption site is a radical idea. It does contradict the majority of our community’s thoughts toward drug addicts. But this facility would approach the issue of drug use in a humane manner treating them as people, not outcasts of society. By providing a safe injection site, Chatham-Kent can confront the opioid crisis before it becomes an epidemic in our own backyard.