June 17th, 2019

Group raises concerns over proposed site at Alberta prison to prevent overdoses


By The Canadian Press on June 12, 2019.

DRUMHELLER, Alta. – An advocacy group has raised doubts over whether an overdose prevention site proposed for a southern Alberta prison will work.

The Correctional Service of Canada says it has received a Health Canada exemption that would permit the site at Drumheller Institution by the end of the month.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network says the site would be no replacement for a needle exchange program, which only exists in six Canadian prisons, and not in Drumheller.

The group says it supports supervised consumption sites on principle, but has reservations about how they would work in correctional facilities.

It says there’s not enough trust and confidentiality in the current prison environment for such a site to be a success.

It says needle exchange programs have been proven to function well behind bars in protecting prisoners’ health.

“The proposed supervised injection site at Drumheller cannot divert us from the pressing need for the Correctional Service of Canada to implement in all of its prisons an evidence-based (needle exchange program) capable of providing prisoners with easy, confidential and effective access to sterile injection equipment and all of its benefits,” the network’s research and advocacy director, Sandra Ka Hon Chu, said in a release.

Prisoners should also have access to naloxone nasal spray to treat overdoses and health-care staff – not correctional officers – should run needle exchange programs, she added.

Corrections spokeswoman Stephanie Stevenson said in an email that planning for the Drumheller site is ongoing.

“CSC is in discussion with unions and staff to ensure a safe working environment and to address any concerns about the implementation of the overdose prevention service.”

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