Brazil and Colombia look to Vancouver for harm reduction drug strategy

VANCOUVER – Delegates from Colombia and Brazil hope to replicate Vancouver’s approach to harm reduction around illegal drug use even as the Canadian government aims to impose stricter rules for opening supervised injection sites.

Representatives of a non-profit organization in Rio De Janeiro and a government official from Colombia who visited Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site, say they’re looking for a way to lower the impact of drug use in their countries.

Ines Mejia, an advisor to Colombia’s health ministry, says her country is witnessing a rise in heroine consumption, and she hopes to sell the Vancouver model of needle-exchange programs to her government when she gets home.

The visit comes in the wake of new federal legislation tabled earlier this month that would require a list of conditions to be met before new Canadian facilities can be allowed to open.

A Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2011 allowed the Vancouver clinic to stay open despite the Conservative government’s repeated objections.

Earlier this week, a report by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS said that Vancouver’s approach to illicit drug use is effective because the number of people reported sharing needles dropped dramatically between 1996 and 2011.