What is a Supervised Consumption Site (SCS)?
A supervised consumption site (SCS) offers a clean, designated area for people to bring their own drugs and use them. The site offers a place for people to have their drugs checked for safety, acquire new, sterile materials and dispose of used materials.
An SCS can also offer:
Basic medical treatment and wound care
STBBI check ups and testing
Support for using less risky methods of drug consumption, such as switching from injection to smoking
Mental health support
Social service and housing referrals
Referrals to treatment as requested
Do Supervised Consumption Sites save lives?
What are the benefits of a Supervised Consumption Site?
Safe consumption sites have many benefits including:
A space for individuals to inject drugs where they will not be rushed. Rushing can make individuals more prone to injury and overdose.
A clean space with access to clean materials such as syringes
A place to get information about how to reduce risk and harm in drug consumption (such as switching from injection to smoking)
A point of access for health care resources
Would a Supervised Consumption Site be useful in Winnipeg?
Studies have shown that SCS reduce overdose deaths and reduce the number of dropped syringes. We know that people who use drugs often face barriers in accessing health care, and SCS can be a point of access to medical care that can prevent individuals from ending up in urgent care, emergency or hospital later on from untreated conditions. We know that SCS can reduce the risk of HIV infections from needle-sharing.
Most research is on SCS where opioids are used. There is much less research on safer consumption sites in communities where the most commonly used drug is methamphetamine, as is the case in Winnipeg. However, the many of the ways that SCS mitigate negative health outcomes of intravenous drug use (STBBIs, tissue damage) are the same whether a person is using opioids or stimulants (such as meth). Additionally, the calming, relaxed environment of an SCS has the potential to reduce the the chance of a person overamping.
Where would a supervised consumption site be located?
Supervised consumption sites are typically located in areas where high rates of public drug use already occur. In Winnipeg, that is in the core area of the city. There are plans in Winnipeg to create mobile sites as well, which could reach individuals in areas of the city farther away.
When was Canada’s first supervised consumption site opened?
Are supervised consumption sites illegal?
Supervised consumption sites can and do operate legally in Canada. Canadian law has an existing framework for the legal operation of SCS.
To open and operate a sanctioned SCS, organizations must apply for and be granted an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act. Applying for this exemption is a rigorous process requiring much research and planning. Inside a sanctioned SCS, people can use their own illicit drugs and staff/peers can witness this consumption without the interference of law enforcement.
What is a Health Canada Exemption and why is it required?
In Canada it is illegal to possess controlled substances (including illicit drugs) and their precursor chemicals. This means that anyone doing research on controlled substances, or creating a space where these substances are consumed, requires a Health Canada exemption in order to operate legally.
Because safer consumption sites are designated spaces for people to consume controlled substances, or “illegal” drugs (as opposed to legal ones, such as caffeine, alcohol and cannabis), they require permission from Health Canada to operate. This is known as a Health Canada exemption. Without this exemption, supervised consumption sites cannot legally provide their services and would be subject to law enforcement.
Where do supervised consumption sites currently exist?
Supervised consumption sites currently exist in many parts of the world including in Europe, Australia, the United States, and across Canada.
Health Canada approved the implementation of supervised consumption sites in Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Surrey and Victoria in 2018.
As of September 2021, there are 37 supervised consumption sites in Canada currently offering services to the public.