Although evidence demonstrates safe injection facilities (SIFs), and by extension OPSs and SCSs, help reduce the spread of blood borne infectious diseases (e.g. HIV, hepatitis C) and prevent accidental overdoses and consequent morbidity (e.g. anoxic brain injury, rhabdomyolosis) and mortality, they remain politically controversial.
Some policy makers, residents and business operators continue to vehemently oppose their implementation on moral grounds, and beliefs that these harm reduction interventions:
- encourage drug-related crimes and public consumption
- condone rather than treat addiction
- burden limited health resources
Critical gaps in the literature contribute to the underrating of OPSs and SCSs as crucial health services. Much of the evidence is specific to the concentrated drug use epidemics of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) and Sydney’s ‘red light’ district, predates the current opioid overdose epidemic, and is specific to injection drug use. This leaves the effects of OPSs and SCSs unclear in contexts where the population is diffuse (i.e. geographically scattered), services are not restricted to people who inject drugs, mobile rather than fixed sites are offered, and during periods of intervention scale-up. The recent implementation of OPSs and SCSs across a variety of settings in BC and over time presents an excellent natural experiment to evaluate the population-level effects of this harm reduction intervention.