Friday, September 30, 2011

A Proud Day for Health Care in BC

I'm really proud of my province today. Not only did we institute a Smoking Cessation Program that helps smokers with the cost of quit smoking aids, but we got permission from the Supreme Court of Canada to keep Insite up and running.

This has been a very controversial issue. For those of you not from Vancouver, Insite is the province's first legal safe injection site. It is based on the harm reduction approach to health care - meaning that, unlike most public services for addicts, it isn't about getting people to quit using (though it does provide information and support for anyone who does want to get clean). It's focused on dealing with the reality of people's existing lifestyles and mitigating the risks associated with it - which, in this case, means giving users clean syringes and a safe and supervised site with medical professionals on staff.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin says, and I agree:

As a social sciences student, I have come to see great benefits to these sorts of programs. Not only in terms of making a risky activity safer, but also in reaching out to sectors of the population who are routinely stigmatized and alienated from any form of health care and support. It gives people a starting point to get help - whatever that help may be (needle exchange, housing, counseling, medical care, etc.).

I'm not so proud of our Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, however. Along with the rest of the conservative (*assholes* ahem), she was in favour of doing away with the clinic, saying:

Yeah, it's great if you can find a way to prevent people from becoming addicts. I'm all for that. But what about all the people who are already addicted? What do you suggest is done about them? Just ignore them and hope they go away? That's putting on a pretty big set of blinders, there, Leona.

I'm hopeful that this ruling has set an important precedent - not just in terms of drug law exemptions for similar facilities, but in terms of a general approach to community health care. It says that we're all important; and we all deserve to be counted into the health care system.

Here's more info on the ruling and on Insite.

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