After supervised injection rooms, Montreal could soon count on supervised inhalation rooms. This is a wish expressed by public health and a project that certain community organizations are pursuing.
At a time when new data indicates that 77% of fatal overdoses in the metropolitan area occur in homes, the relevance of supervised consumption sites is no longer in doubt. Especially since supervised injection services are carrying out record numbers of emergency interventions, preventing several additional deaths.
Following this same principle, we now want to allow people who use drugs who consume by inhalation to do so under supervision. Substances ingested through smoke inhalation could therefore be consumed in appropriately designed facilities.
“At the moment, supervised consumption centers do not allow us to have inhalation in the room, but it is more and more common that people will inhale certain drugs, whether fentanyl or others,” explains the Dr Benoit Corriveau of the Montreal Regional Public Health Department (DRSP).
Currently, four organizations offer supervised injection services: Dopamine, Specter de rue, CACTUS Montréal and l’Anonyme. These organizations have a federal exemption allowing them to act as havens where the law relating to drug possession does not apply. The DRSP wants to collaborate with these same organizations with relevant expertise in order to develop supervised inhalation services.
At Dopamine, general manager Martin Pagé confirms that a project is on the table. The organization, which has premises on Sainte-Catherine Street in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough, wants to expand to set up an inhalation room over the next year.
He points out that, unlike other parts of the country, temporary outdoor shelters are not enough because of the harsh winter. We therefore plan to build an annex to the building with an adequate ventilation system to evacuate toxic substances.
“For my staff to intervene in the event of an overdose, special ventilation is needed to drain the room of all smoke,” he describes. Martin Pagé also insists on the importance of creating a welcoming and warm space for users.
However, such an initiative requires significant investments, as well as manpower. For Dopamine, this means practically doubling the intervention staff. Although he does not yet have all the required funding, Mr. Pagé says he is optimistic.
“If public health announces that, it is because they have aims,” he notes.
CACTUS in reflection
CACTUS Montreal is also considering the possibility of offering a supervised inhalation service, but its general manager, Jean-François Mary, wants to ensure that such a service would offer real added value for its users.
“We have to think carefully with our community,” he insists. This means listening to the needs of users, but also of the neighborhood in the city center. Tensions are already present between residents and drug users who frequent the supervised injection site on rue Berger.
According to Mr. Mary, the reflection therefore involves not only the relevance of the service, but also its location. CACTUS could therefore offer both services under the same roof or in two separate locations. But regardless of the scenario chosen, funding will be required, which is not easy in a context where the community sector is always threatened with cuts.
Regarding consumption trends, the CEO of CACTUS says he is observing more and more people smoking opioids, including fentanyl. The concentration power of the substances would partly explain this practice since it would no longer be necessary to inject it to obtain the same effects.
For people who use drugs and their loved ones, August 31 is one of commemoration. This International Overdose Awareness Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of the victims.
A little everywhere in the world, one proceeds to illuminations using the color mauve. The Quebec Association for the Promotion of the Health of People Using Drugs will highlight the event in several locations in Quebec, including at Place Émilie-Gamelin in Montreal starting at 4 p.m. Information booths, music and testimonials are planned.
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