After years of lobbying for safe-injection sites in Montreal, staff at CACTUS Montreal are getting ready to greet drug users who will use the new site starting Monday afternoon.
Staff members were in meetings Monday morning ahead of the opening of CACTUS’s new safe-injection site on Berger St. in downtown Montreal. The facility will allow people to use intravenous drugs under supervision.
A second safe-injection site is scheduled to open in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve this week and two others are expected to open by the fall.
CACTUS Montreal expects to accommodate between 150 and 215 injections per day — providing users with clean needles, a quiet space to use the narcotics and on-site nurses who can intervene in the event of an overdose.
The site in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve will be run by a community group called Dopamine and provide a space for up to 18 injections daily.
The program is funded by a three-year, $12-million grant from the provincial government.
Ottawa gave the go-ahead for the program to try to combat the opioid crisis that has spread across parts of North America, particularly British Columbia. Health Canada says the sites can reduce overdoses, the transmission of diseases and hospital visits without increasing the crime rate. Montreal is the second city in Canada to have the facilities on its territory, after Vancouver.
The safe-injection sites are run alongside a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and in collaboration with the Montreal police. They’ll be co-ordinated through the CIUSSS Centre-Sud medical centre.
Peer workers have been spending time in the streets talking to drug users who inject heroin, fentanyl and other drugs into their bloodstream, trying to persuade them to use the service. They say the sites contribute to public safety because fewer drug users will leave their needles in parks and other public areas.