Opening two supervised injection sites in Ottawa would save the health system money, new analysis suggests.
As a case study, researchers borrowed data from the Insite facility in Vancouver; a location where addicts are allowed to inject illegal drugs under the scrutiny of health workers who also provide clean needles.
“Our analysis is quite conservative,” said Ahmed Bayoumi, a medical researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto who co-authored the paper.
“We’re really just doing a scientific study to try and look at the economic consequences. It’s really up to the politicians and decision-makers.”
Bayoumi’s research focused on some of the most expensive costs of addiction in Ottawa.
“The most significant process is probably the cost of hepatitis C treatment,” he said.
“Somebody who is hepatitis C positive would have a (cost of treatment) of about $60,000….”
Given the nature of supervised injection sites, the assumption is that less needles would be shared and as a result, less disease would be spread among users.
Additionally, the prevalence of HIV cases averted from the simulated injection sites was also a factor in the study.
The reason why more than one clinic was suggested in Ottawa, according to Bayoumi, is because drug-use is less concentrated in one area of the city in comparison to Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.
Bayoumi’s research suggests there’s an 86-per-cent chance that an Insite-type clinic in Toronto would be cost effective, and a 90-per-cent chance in Ottawa.
But the discussion in Ontario about creating safe-injection sites is centred around incorporating clinics into pre-existing healthcare buildings.
“Cost savings (are) associated with that as well,” he said. “Even more cost-effective than we had estimated.”
Conversely, Vancouver’s Insite facility is in a standalone building.
Ottawa wasn’t the only topic of the study.
Researchers argued it’s cost effective to implement three clinics in Toronto as well, given its size and demographic of drug addicts.
Other potential cost-saving criteria that didn’t make it into the study is the reduction of money spent on crime and littering, said Bayoumi.