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City’s drug-policy chief heading out

September 6th, 2009 · 46 Comments

Word will be coming out next week that Vancouver’s drug-policy co-ordinator — the only job with that title in any Canadian city — is going to be leaving.

Donald MacPherson, a former Carnegie Centre manager who got interested in drug policy as a result of watching people overdose and die on his front steps, was named as a drug guy in 2001 by then-mayor Philip Owen, who made the Downtown Eastside drug issue his main initiative in the later years of his administration. It was MacPherson who came up with the name and idea of the “four pillars” strategy — prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction — that became identified with Vancouver and who worked with Owen on the controversial harm-reduction piece of it that led to Vancouver’s only supervised-injection site.

For his efforts, MacPherson got regularly vilified by anti-harm reduction types but also won awards (see Globe reporter Andre Picard’s story from this past March on one of them) and got requests from around the world to come and speak about drug policy.

MacPherson says he’s not leaving because of anything to do with current administration (though I can’t help noting that drug policy and harm reduction have somewhat fallen off the radar with the new crew), but that he wants to move on to working on drug policy at a national level. But there’s nothing definitive yet. However, he’ll get to ponder his new life in attractive settings. MacPherson’s wife, noted artist and Emily Carr instructor Landon Mackenzie, has won the Canada Council gig in Paris for this fall, which provides her with a small studio and stipend to go make art along the Seine.

City manager Penny Ballem, who worked with MacPherson back in the early 2000s on the harm-reduction stuff where she was a strong advocate for what the city was trying to do, said she’s sorry to see him go. On the other hand, she said, she can understand why people want to move on, especially when they’ve been working on an area like his.

“When he first started, there were so many stars aligned,” said Ballem, referring to the way the then federal Liberals, the provincial government, and the city were all pulling in the same direction on drug policy — a stark change from now, especially at the federal level. “That’s when you have a run that you remember, but that can’t last forever.” Ballem said it will be great to have MacPherson working with the city potentially as someone lobbying from the outside.

As for what’s going to happen to his position, that still has to be talked about with community-services group manager Dave McLellan, but Ballem said she’d like to see it mesh with the mental-health work the city is also trying to do. It was Ballem who forced health regions to combine mental-health and addictions efforts when she was at the ministry, because of what she could see were the obvious overlaps. Now, she says, it’s clear that whatever work the city does on addictions also has to address the mental-health component of that, since 60 per cent of addicts also have a mental-health problem.

“We can’t afford any more to isolate drug policy,” she told me Saturday, the day after MacPherson tendered his resignation effective Oct. 2. “I said to Donald, ‘You’ve left a huge legacy. Now we’re poised to take the next step.’ We need to build on the platform he’s created.”

MacPherson is the latest in a long list of city employees who have gone off to greener pastures or retired or just plain left in the last four years, as a combination of baby-boomer retirements, fedupness with the various agendas of various brand-setting administrations, and shifting priorities at the city have taken their toll.

BTW, MacPherson, a PEI native who started off his professional life working in literacy, is an excellent fiddle player if anyone is looking for same.

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  • Fred

    The wonderfully named “Needle Exchange” program hands syringes out by the truckload. There is no exchange going on if you don’t count millions of taxpayers dollars for millions of give away needles.

    The program is a stunningly stupid put politically correct action that benefits the drug dealers who get a free supply of needles that they can pre-load before selling to their street victims.

    Try and find out how many needles are given out every year in Vancouver and you will get a run-around of mega proportions.

    Our government tries really hard to keep this information secret because they know it is political dynamite.

    “Vancouver has the largest Needle Exchange Program (NEP) in North America. The Vancouver NEP distributed approx. 3 million needles last year. A 1997 study of the city’s intravenous drug users, 92% of whom used the NEP, found that 40% of HIV-positive addicts had lent their used syringes, and 39% of HIV-negative addicts had borrowed a used syringe. (SOURCE: STRATHDEE et al: AIDS II, 1997 AND US OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY, 1998) ”

    http://ideas-canada.ca/needle/index.htm

  • spartikus

    I hate to break this to you Fred but drug dealers sell drugs, not needles. Nor do they provide them as part of their “service”.

    Meanwhile, from your own citation: There is now direct evidence that increasing the availability of clean injection equipment slows the spread of HIV, and indirect evidence that limited access to supplies of needles and syringes accelerates it. Both forms of evidence demonstrate that access to sterile injecting equipment and outreach in conjunction with development of trust between health care officials and injection drug users are critical in limiting the spread of HIV infection.

  • Helping the addicted by supplying needles to prevent hiv has it’s purpose safe injection for the prevention of overdoses works as well. On the subject of prevention in the dtes not much is being done ,The police will not charge you for simple possession the drug dealers are not being arrested, more and more people have migrated to this part of the country as the Shang gra lai of addiction. Harm reduction may seem to be working in the two area’s noted above but lives are being condemned by the steady flow and active drug culture that exist’s in this neighborhood .As someone who was addicted for over twenty years now recovered for seven my friends your children will have one hell of a time breaking the cycle that has erupted through enablement now being served called harm reduction. We who have recovered believe that drug free work’s, to support my addiction through harm reduction keeps me addicted for another ten unnecessary years. Free needles cheap methadone welfare on demand new sro’s popping up everyday crack pipe mouth pieces free food free freakin everything, what is my incentive to change from a prolonged death with these services at my beckoning call. People are still dying on the step’s of the world famous Carnegie drug mart as well in the many other locales in this the most highly concentrated centre of open drug use in north America. The result’s are poor for recovery throughout the city when this toilet keeps flushing lives to a early death harm reduction goes against recovery just ask any one who survived.

  • Blaffergassted

    And the oposite of harm reduction is … ?

  • gmgw

    Note to Frances: “named as a drug guy” is perhaps not the most feleicitous turn of phrase to apply to someone in MacPherson’s area of responsibility.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    recovered drug addict’s comments should be required reading for the harm seductionists, like MacPherson, whose end game was legalization.

    I have interviewed over 200 addicts, active and recovered and written extensively about the pure fraud of Insite and NAOMI (20 of B.C.’s top addictionologists wrote against it, but no one in the MSM covered it).

    People like MacPherson should be banned from even entering the discussion as his ilk has enabled addicts who would be better off in treatment where they belong. The mythology about how treatment does work, only serves to illustrate a fundamental misperception about addiction: It is, primarily, about a loss of control, and not, as the proponents of MacPherson’s nonsense suggest, about “reducing harm”.

    Less is more, in this case. The city should abandon this position and save taxpayers from the likes of Dandy Don, who, if nothing else, shamelessly supported programs and initiatives, which have resulted in the perpetuation of the zombie-state that currently exists where intra-city addiction is concerned.

    His REAL legacy is one of death and suffering.

    He can take his fiddle a stick it.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Of course, I meant to write, “The mythology of how treatment DOESN’T work…” because that’s the big lie being pushed forever and a day by MacPherson and the Portland Hotel Society and other profiteers and povertarians.

  • Local resident

    I agree with AGT on this, the status quo has been in place for years now and it has not shown a reducation in the amount of people lost to drugs. Sure some might take comfort in overdoses levelling off and a reducation in some dieases. But the total amount of people who are losing any semblance of life continues to rise each year. We need to change our course. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that it’s not what we are doing today.

  • This departure has no real controversy around it, no matter how some try and spin it.

    And, the string of departures from City Hall have to do with people who hated the fact that fiefdoms were coming to an end, and policy changes were on the horizon:

    http://civicscene.ca/the-impact-of-vancouvers-city-manager

  • “addicts who would be better off in treatment where they belong.”

    My understanding is that there are too few beds and long waiting lists for people who do seek treatment. Can you indicate where you think people should go to find treatment in a timely fashion AGT? I think that would be a valuable contribution to the discussion.

  • spartikus

    As seems to be typical, AGT does not link to any part of his body of work that OBLITERATES the arguments of those he opposes.

    So we, the reader, are left to find if for ourselves.

    A Google search of Tsakumis + addiction, funnily enough, has at the top of the list this blog entry by an alleged Detox Support Worker by the name of Pearse Richards that takes issue with one of AGT’s columns (alas, no longer available for free). As an aside, this particular entry is somewhat interesting, though it would have been nice to see some support for some of the factual claims (ex. that most drug dealers are themselves addicts).

    Back to AGT. I think this article by him would probably serve as an example of his thinking on the matter. (If there is another that is better, please inform us). Per the criticism of Pearse Richards, there are a lot of claims, but not a lot of support. I would find…

    “The self-proclaimed (yes, they named themselves) Centre for Excellence boasts studies that drug replacement works. What they don’t tell you about are the countless doctors across this country (particularly addictionologists in Vancouver), who regard those studies as junk science.”

    …compelling…if names of some of the “countless doctors” had been provided.

  • Byron

    Why am I still tripping over junkies and their left over garbage when there is a safe injection site?
    I’m one of the tolerant ones and I’m getting bloody sick and tired of watching this stuff everyday.
    It’s depressing.

  • spartikus

    Why am I still tripping over junkies and their left over garbage when there is a safe injection site?

    Dunno. Maybe there’s more junkies than the injection site can handle?

    Maybe the problem is exponentially bigger than the resources that have been allocated to address it?

  • Byron

    If we could just get them to clean up their shit.
    Talk about selfish. You got your fix, clean up your fookin’ mess already.

  • Darcy McGee

    Maybe safe injection sites aren’t the solution for everyone. I had a friend who worked for Vancouver Native Health and he gave me stats once that said they work for 12%. That means that the somewhat unilateral focus on safe injection sites that seemed to be happening for a long was ignoring the needs of 88%.

    I’m sure they could /help/ more than 12%, but they’re not a cure all.

    (That research is a few years out of date too, but I’ve not got time right at this moment to see if I can find unbiased studies that show otherwise…higher or lower.)

  • “If we could just get them to clean up their shit.
    Talk about selfish. You got your fix, clean up your fookin’ mess already.”

    I feel that way about cigarette butts discarded on the ground. If your average smoker is that ‘selfish’, it strikes me as somewhat unrealistic to expect someone with much bigger problems to display a higher standard of behaviour.

  • IanS

    Darcy,

    Out of curiosity, what do you mean by “Maybe safe injection sites aren’t the solution for everyone”. My understanding, from what I’ve read about it in the papers and such, is that the purpose behind the free injection sites is to reduce the risk of diseases such as HIV being spread through unsafe drug use. Is there any suggestion anywhere that safe injection sites actually help anyone get off drugs?

  • Byron

    “much bigger problems”…..

    no one is holding a gun to their heads. Personal choice does enter into the matter here. These people are not babies.

  • LP

    Philip Owen who hired this chap has gone on record stating that the problem in the DTES is the worst he’s ever seen.

    For the past number of years no one can suggest that we haven’t given harm reduction a decent try. 4 pillars. Please. What a f*cking joke.

    Anyone who looks at the bigger picture can see it being a collosal failure. For those that it helps, there are far too many that it simply doesn’t help. There is far more money being dumped down there than needs to be and all it’s done is exacerbate the problem.

    Enough with this bullshit of spending money on safe injection sites, lets spend the same money on detox beds and truly help people.

    Spartikus I’m not going to post a link to prove that either. If you need proof of that, well I won’t resort to saying what I think of your intelligence. Also, linking to the very people AGT criticizes is just plain useless. But then I’ve come to expect that from you.

    And as for the yappy chihuahua of FBula.com – Mr Keam; your prettiness of having to comment whenever AGT does, implies a serious jealousy or complex. Perhaps you need your own pillar?

    Quite pathetic really, however I doubt you realize how ridiculous you truly are. Really, you don’t have anything better to do than to troll around bad mouthing someone who disagrees with your point of view?

    Do you realize how often you feel the need to negatively comment everytime he has something to say. Grow-up already. Get a life. Go out and enjoy that bike lane and get some air. Clearly you need it.

  • I have a hard time swallowing criticism of Insite, the NEP, or the claim that the Portland Hotel Society is profiteering off of addicts. These programs are doing what they are supposed to do and, despite claims to the contrary, have exhibited measurable results in the fight against the spread of disease, loss of life due to overdoses, and housing those who are very difficult to house. To call them “povertarians” and continuously rail against them for not doing more when there is a systemic failure due to a lack of detox beds and long-term care is, I think, a waste of breath and totally misses the larger problem. AGT hits this problem on the head in the same article Spartikus quotes from:

    “At the outset, all three of Messers Owen, Campbell and Sullivan should have petitioned the provincial government to reopen Riverview. Instead we’re left with Minister Rich Coleman’s policy dream of building thousands of units of luxury housing on that site.”

    One anecdotal account of what I witness daily: A couple of weeks ago a mentally ill guy on Cordova asked me for a smoke and we talked a bit and he told me how bad his teeth hurt (and his gums looked really bad and were bleeding) and he was really anguished and stressed out and clearly in a lot of pain. Then he says, much to my surprise, “I wish I was back in Riverview. They did my teeth there every year and I never had a single cavity. Haven’t seen a dentist in years now… And I used to eat well too, which helps….”

    While I don’t agree with everything AGT says, he’s dead right about the high proportion of mental illness among street people on the DTES. I think the closing of Riverview and other long-term care programs is THE major cause of the system overload and the resulting horror show on the DTES streets. Mentally ill street people are suffering horribly – I see people every day who would be far better off in Riverview – and these people live their lives scraping to get their basic needs met, often unsuccessfully. They also live in constant fear because they are easy prey for dealers, petty criminals, and sexual predators who troll the DTES regularly. It’s no wonder they self-medicate.

    And it’s no coincidence that these problems have spiralled out of control with the Liberals in power. There’s research supporting the success of long term care/detox, not only in treating patients in need, but in reducing the annual Health Care costs per person. Not only is it more humane, it makes economic sense. Unfortunately, these are two things the Liberals don’t have a clue about.

    So blame povertarians all you want, but I think your anger is being misdirected. The real villains in the DTES are Rich Coleman and Gordon Campbell and their shameful Social Darwinist policies.

  • “And as for the yappy chihuahua of FBula.com – Mr Keam; your prettiness of having to comment whenever AGT does, implies a serious jealousy or complex. Perhaps you need your own pillar?”

    My comments directed towards Alex Tsakumis are rebuttals of his over-blown anti-cycling rhetoric in almost all instances. Today I asked him where the people who need it might seek treatment, per his suggestion. It was a pretty reasonable question IMO and I stand by it, since the lack of beds appears to be the biggest problem with drug rehab in B.C. as you’ve noted.

  • spartikus

    Spartikus I’m not going to post a link to prove that either.

    Fair enough, but you come across as yelling at clouds from your front porch.

    Are things currently bad in the DTES? I think that’s a fair statement. Are they “the worst ever”? I dunno. That is where statistics come in handy.

    Is Insite et al at the root of this alleged decline as opposed to…oh, I dunno…more and cheaper drugs or a lack of funding for the other pillars of the 4 Pillar strategy? Well, here is where I think you and AGT need to put up or shut up. If you’re not going to…well, sorry you’re all froth, no coffee.

  • “no one is holding a gun to their heads. Personal choice does enter into the matter here. These people are not babies.”

    Byron:

    I totally recommend you (and anyone who thinks addicts are simply victims of their own poor choices) read Gabor Mate’s book “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts”. I think it addresses your comments and makes a pretty convincing case that it’s not quite that simple.

    http://www.drgabormate.com/ghosts.php

    cheers,
    CK

  • Byron

    Heard it all before.
    Burnt out on the “victims” and the “poverty pimps”. As long as the Portland Hotel society are working for themselves, for new braces and other such personal improvements…..nothing will change.
    If I hear, “we’re in the business of managing people’s lives” one more time.

    Shoot up at Insite or stick to the alleys. Sick of it all.

  • Have you read the book? Beyond whatever you might think of the Portland Hotel, it might offer some fresh insight into the lives of addicts and help explain why they are the way they are.

  • Not an Expert

    I am really not understanding why the presumption is that Donald M. was not in favour of getting long term support/detox and treatment for drug addicts. I am tired of hearing folks like AG Tsakumis butting his head against one, I repeat, one of the four pillars… No question, the war on Drugs in the US failed miserably. No question, we need law and order on the DTES, and the mentally ill need long, long term help to keep them safe from harm. The needle exchange and safe injection site were largely about mitigating overdose, slowing the spread of communicable disease in a densely populated area, and could provide immediate reminders to the clients about the options they have to stop. This is not a bad thing! Its like the question… does birth control stop teenagers from having sex? Not likely…Does it stop further harm, the spread of disease, heck yeah. There is no doubt that we need to find out what is at the heart of addiction, and we are learning a great deal more now through mapping the brain and research but I think it is incumbent upon us to in the meantime mitigate risk in Cities. There is too much on the public health front at risk to be naive about this.

  • Darcy McGee

    > the purpose behind the free injection sites is to reduce the risk of diseases such
    > as HIV being spread through unsafe drug use. Is there any suggestion
    > anywhere that safe injection sites actually help anyone get off drugs?

    Absolutely, the goal is to provide “treatment” as well, to eliminate the dependency on drugs.

    Naturally the site doesn’t have a web site. The CBC notes here that the site helps users quite their drug habits:
    http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2006/11/20/injection-study.html

    I’ve never been in the place, but it was/is my understanding that the site offered access to treatment resources as well.

    I have to say I worked down there for…2 years or so. Right in the Old B.C. Electric building. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for those with drug addictions, by and large, but walking in and around that neighbourhood every day…every night…it just made me hard, and cold, and I lost all that sympathy over time. I had to get out. I don’t want to BE a person who’s incapable of feeling for the ones down there who honestly need help.

    There’s definitely people down there who are beyond help, and others who are preying on the base needs of others…but there are a lot of people down there who need help, and it’s frankly beyond my comprehension how to deliver it.

  • spartikus

    Naturally the site doesn’t have a web site.

    It’s linked from the CBC story.

  • spartikus

    From the Canadian Medical Association Journal, November 18, 2008 “The cost-effectiveness of Vancouver’s supervised injection facility”

    Results: Focusing on the base assumption of decreased needle sharing as the only effect of the supervised injection facility, we found that the facility was associated with an incremental net savings of almost $14 million and 920 life-years gained over 10 years. When we also considered the health effect of increased use of safe injection practices, the incremental net savings increased to more than $20 million and the number of life-years gained to 1070. Further increases were estimated when we considered all 3 health benefits: the incremental net savings was more than $18 million and the number of life-years gained 1175. Results were sensitive to assumptions related to injection frequency, the risk of HIV transmission through needle sharing, the frequency of safe injection practices among users of the facility, the costs of HIV-related care and of operating the facility, and the proportion of users who inject in the facility.

    Interpretation: Vancouver’s supervised injection site is associated with improved health and cost savings, even with conservative estimates of efficacy.

  • Local resident

    Lots of energy being wasted fighting each other instead of thinking of new solutions, it’s obvious to everyone that the status quo is not the answer.

    The only suggestion so far is reopening Riverview, which I completely agree with. If we can get the truly down and out that can not manage themselves off the streets and into care.
    Putting even 2,0oo people into care would make an enormous difference in the dtes as it would elimate the crictal mass that currently exists there and make the remaining issues a lot more managable with current resources.
    I’d also like to see an adapation of the con-air program where money is spent sending some addicts back home, not as a displacement tool but only for those that want to be sent home, there are numerous studies that show people are best served in smaller communities and in there hometowns, I beleive they have tried this at some point as a trial already, lets expand it see how it works out.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Chris–your question is a good one. I’ve written about it over and again: Mark Townsend of PHS, MacPherson and others paid lip-service to real treatment. They are dancing charlatans in this game of harm seduction.

    The lobbying and politicization of getting people well is DISGUSTING. They claim Harper has an agenda, and yet they use the very same rhetoric to attack him.

    They should have been advocating for more beds. I know many doctors in Vanc Coastal Health who have been intimidated by their ilk.

    Spartikus, the reply to NAOMI (that appeared in the NJM last month) is well documented.

    Go Google Dr. Colin Mangham and read EVERYTHING he writes about the grief pimps.

    I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: The the most dangerous drug dealer in the 21st Century will not wear a fanny pack and carry a 9mm in his waistband, but rather, he will don a white lab coat and carry a fountain pen.

    This whole “study industry” is about lining the pockets of a small sliver of political activists, who also happen to be doctors.

    They want us to pour millions into treatments that MIGHT benefit 5% of addicts. But real treatment, abstinence based programs, that have worked (mostly with success) over decades, don’t even get their attention!!!

    It’s all junk science. It’s doesn’t work. Treatment is the only way and MacPherson has spent decades sitting and spinning studies. He is a well-known advocate of legalization which will make the govt the drug competition bureau to the gangs. If they’re driving BMWs now, people like MAcPherson would deliver a Ferrari in every one of their driveways. His (attempted) logic is severely flawed and he should have been fired years ago.

    He baptized the ‘Four Pillars’ and then hung on to harm seduction (one pillar) for dear life.

    Pathetic. And a waste of our tax dollars.

    Shame!

  • spartikus

    the reply to NAOMI (that appeared in the NJM last month) is well documented.

    Your article isn’t online at 24hrs anymore. If there’s another place to find it….???

    Go Google Dr. Colin Mangham and read EVERYTHING he writes about the grief pimps.

    I did. He’s the director of research at the Drug Prevention Network of Canada (an organization that has close ties to Drug Prevention Network of America). The DPNC promotes an abstinence-only approach – which has worked so well in the U.S.

    He’s a data point. Here’s another:

    22 studies examining various facets of Insite’s operations have passed the rigorous peer-review process and been published in prestigious scientific journals. Every one of those studies reported positive results.

    Has Dr. Mangham published his anti-Insite work in a peer-reviewed journal? Not so much, it seems.

    Treatment is the only way

    I’m still confused as to how MacPherson was against treatment?

  • spartikus

    The Drug Prevention Network of Canada‘s Scientific Report page.

    Presented without comment.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Interesting spartikus that you raise the American bogeyman when it suits you.

    Your Vision(less) friends are supported by an American inheritor, who is a significant investor in businesses your pals promote, most interestingly a bicycle mfc company.

    But more to the point, Dr. Mangham is considered one of the top addictionologists in the province. His work is almost without equal. The mythology that a ‘drug war’ has failed int he US is farcical considering how many more people there are in the America. That only eliminates the comparison to Canada.

    Treatment is KEY. The manipulated stats by the Insite proponents aren’t saving lives–their garnering more research dollars because the politicians making the grants are either too weak or lack the knowledge to JUST SAY NO.

    As for the “peer-reviewed” bullshit, you should know this: The proponents of the schlock you like, typically front load their “peers”. In other words, it’s done by like-minded docs, who often have a vested interest in getting a grant or being attached to a media story. It’s about being a celebrity doc.

    I regularly keep in touch with four of the top addictionologists in this province and NOT ONE had anything even remotely positive to say about MacPherson, who had a world of time to advocate for more treatment beds–and didn’t. The lack of beds was an issue ten years ago. He was still drug czar, and he accomplished nothing in this regard, or any other, except to promote the undercurrent of legalization in his rhetoric and bitch about political agendas, without happening to address his own.

    MacPherson, Drs Marsh, Krauss, Schecter are nothing more than the PR hucksters, who happen to have MDs.

    Drs like Mangham, prove, day in, day out, that treatment works, but YOU have to want it badly enough.

    Interesting, too, that not one of the over 200 (street) addicts I have interviewed have ever afforded anything more than scorn to references about Insite, NAOMI and CAST. Only treatment worked for them.

    But then the MSM can’t say which celebrity “peer-reviewed” doctor recd a PR blowjob this week.

    Eg: Front page coverage of NAOMI, but do you know where their most celebrated “graduate” was within a few months post-matriculation?

    Back on the street selling enough caps of heroin to satisfy his own addiction. Of course during the study he said getting free heroin evened him out. They’ll say anything to get drugs. A very stupid premise and fraudulent results, both through the process and in the reporting of it. But not a word in the Sun or Courier or the self-named Center of Excellence (more like excrement). Just a small piece in the Province and a feature in my column, with a front page teaser.

    Good riddance to MacPherson! One down, about a dozen at Vancouver Coastal Health, to go!

  • Darcy McGee

    A.G. Tsakumis: your conspiracy theories (front loading doctors!) are compelling. Very X-Files. Very Rush Limbaugh. You’ve got a TV series in you somewhere.

    Damn…I just remembered whyI’m glad I rid of my TV.

  • spartikus

    Interesting spartikus that you raise the American bogeyman when it suits you.

    I didn’t realize being American was something bad, but let’s not beat around the bush, or make that Bush*, any longer: Dr. Mangham’s employer’s U.S. counterpart – the Drug Free America Foundation – founded by Mel & Betty Sembler, who also founded the controversial Straight, Inc, is not a scientific body. It’s an ideological lobbying group whose stated purpose “creating and strengthening international laws that hold drug users and dealers criminally accountable for their actions. It will vigorously promote treaties and agreements that provide clear penalties to individuals who buy, sell or use harmful drugs.The institute supports efforts to oppose policies based on the concept of harm reduction.”

    *Jeb Bush is on it’s Advisory Council.

    But more to the point, Dr. Mangham is considered one of the top addictionologists in the province.

    By….??? The RCMP perhaps?

    Ah yes, what is a fact is the RCMP’s E Division commissioned and paid for a study by Raymond Corrado, criminologist at Simon Fraser University and Irwin Cohen, criminologist at the University of The Fraser Valley to critique Insite. Unfortunately Corrado and Cohen didn’t find much to critique, so the Mounties tried again, this time with Dr. Mangham. Who was paid for his efforts, btw.

    The mythology that a ‘drug war’ has failed int he US is farcical considering how many more people there are in the America. That only eliminates the comparison to Canada.

    I’m not sure I understand this. Are you attempting to claim there are less drug users per capita in the United States than Canada?

    I regularly keep in touch with four of the top addictionologists in this province and NOT ONE had anything even remotely positive to say about MacPherson,

    Names, please.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    spartikus–Dr. Mangham’s employer is NOT the American counterpart. In fact, the two groups operate separately, but good try.

    The US has more addicts, that’s the point. That’s why it’s easy for pedestrian logic like yours to resonate with the unaware: Lots of addicts in America folks, so treatment doesn’t work.

    And you want me to reveal my sources to YOU?

    Let’s see, it’s a little rich for you hide behind a pseudonym, and demand that I give up sources–what’s your name?

    Go down the list of the docs opposed to NAOMI and Insite as it stands. They are the most recognized fr their work in addictions medicine with the greatest amt of success.

    And with the least amt of press. They care only about getting people better.

    Why don’t you run along now and hang out with Dr. Gabor Mate…more your speed…

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    BTW spartikus, nice spin. I just re-read Corrado’s report conclusions and they found a fair bit to critique.

    Good effort though…

  • spartikus

    spartikus–Dr. Mangham’s employer is NOT the American counterpart.

    Er…I don’t recall claiming he was.

    In fact, the two groups operate separately, but good try.

    Of course. Just like there’s an Oxfam America and an Oxfam Canada. What they do share is a raison d’etre.

    Let’s see, it’s a little rich for you hide behind a pseudonym, and demand that I give up sources–what’s your name?

    You’re the professional journalist. You are the one making a claim of fact. And I see no compelling reason why their names need to be withheld. I mean, really, is endorsing Colin Mangham a firing offense? Are their lives in danger?

    Go down the list of the docs opposed to NAOMI and Insite as it stands.

    When you finally get around to providing one, I’ll be happy to.

  • spartikus

    BTW spartikus, nice spin. I just re-read Corrado’s report conclusions and they found a fair bit to critique.

    Which report was that?

    Was it “Reductions in public disorder including public drug use and prevalence of injection related litter was significant” (R. Corrado, Analysis of the Research Literature on INSITE, 2006)?

    Or was it “There was a good likelihood that a reduction in the epidemic of blood-borne diseases was enhanced since a substantial number of InSite clients stopped syringe sharing.” (R. Corrado, Analysis of the Research Literature on INSITE, 2006)?

  • Local resident

    Spartikus, I’m just wondering as you seem to be defending Insite, do you beleive it is working and making a positive differnce in the community.
    As a local resident I have not seen an improvement since the program was started, like I mentioned earlier I take little comfort in the level of overdose deaths leveling off when the amount of people hooked on drugs is not decreasing but infact increasing each year. To me this only shows that the current system regardless of it’s good intentions is not working. We need to break the cycle not prolong it.

  • spartikus

    @ Local Resident

    I won’t pretend to be anything other than a layman, but it strikes me that the preponderance of evidence suggests Insite succeeds at it’s stated purpose and does so in a cost-effective way.

    Insite was not supposed to solve the DTES’s drug problem. It was supposed to stop the spread of disease and serve as a gateway to treatment. And if treatment programs are underfunded don’t blame Insite.

    So, yes, it is in my opinion working and, if anything, more sites of its kind opened.

  • Local Resident

    My opinion is that I’d rather see a few million more spent on recovery rather then another insite. So I guess we have to agree to disagree. I don’t see insite as a solution to the disease, just a solution a treatment for one of the syptoms while the disease goes uncured.

  • Vancouverois

    The provincial government’s passive aggressive ‘strategy’ of slowly allowing gentrification of the DTES of Vancouver to remove places where addicts and druggies and the homeless can stay, is resulting in those poor unfortunates showing up in other tonier neighbourhoods of our fine metropolis. What was the biggest event in the last 20 years that exacerbated the homeless/drug problem in the DTES? It was the SOCRED government of Bill Van Der Zalm and his predecessors closing Riverview Hospital for the Mentally Ill and letting them fend for themselves on the streets to be preyed upon by drug dealers and violent gangsters. That the prov. liberal government had the idea recently to “re-brand” that area replte with condos with some sections containing low-income housing, makes one guffaw. I can see it now, the advertising campaign states you can get a taste of the downtown urban life, showing a picture of a bum with a shopping cart. I grew up in Kerrisdale and it took 25 years for me to see my first bum appear in that neighborhood, harassing seniors for change as they came out of the London Drugs. For those who would cry NIMBYism, is the current government’s pre-Olympics 2010 strategy of ignoring the problem working? I fear not. Instead of passive aggressive gentrification, an AGGRESSIVE strategy (one Obama might espouse?) would be to clean up that entire DTES neighbourhood by building addict treatment centres, not in Coquitlam, but ON THE SPOT, DTES fully equipped treatment beds. Does anybody know what the estimates are for the number of homeless/mentally ill/drug addicted that live in the DTES? In my opinion, that number is too LOW not to put the money up to clean up our city and help these poor folks with what I think everyone would agree is a HEALTH problem – addiction, mental illness. Homelessness is just a by-product. Let’s look at the real issues as ugly as they are and deal with them aggressively head-on, not by a laissez-faire approach of “harm-reduction” (please! no firm goal in mind) or a passive aggressive realtor’s approach to homelessness that is market-driven gentrification that would take 20-30 years.

  • Darcy McGee

    > My opinion is that I’d rather see a few million more spent on recovery rather
    > then another insite

    Sure…but the point is that Insite plays a role in recovery for many people. It can be the first step (contact with help resources) and the middle step (assistance in moderating intake while undergoing treatment.)

    It’s not for everyone, but Insite’s goal is to be a part of the recovery process.

    Or do you think everyone should just go cold turkey? It worked for Miles Davis, but I doubt it’s going to work for everyone.

  • spartikus

    The argument that, in these stark economic times, Insite takes money away from programs that are “more effective” is a bonafide one, I think. But you must demonstrate that these other programs are in fact more effective and so far no one here has done that.

    Currently Health Authority budgets are being slashed while at the same time $300 million is being pondered for BC Place.

    With that in mind, the idea that Insite is a misplaced spending priority seems insane.