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Updated: 12th June 2019 18:05Calgary·New

HIV patient advocacy group fears consumption site at Alberta prison won't succeed

An advocacy group has raised doubts over whether an overdose prevention site proposed for a southern Alberta prison will work.

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Supervised consumption site could open at Drumheller Institution by end of month

An advocacy group for people with HIV is concerned a proposed supervised consumption site at Drumheller Institution won't be a success. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

An advocacy group has raised doubts over whether an overdose prevention site proposed for a southern Alberta prison will work.

The Correctional Service of Canada says it has received a Health Canada exemption that would permit the site at Drumheller Institution by the end of the month.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network says the site would be no replacement for a needle exchange program, which only exists in six Canadian prisons, and not in Drumheller.

The group says it supports supervised consumption sites on principle, but has reservations about how they would work in correctional facilities.

It says there's not enough trust and confidentiality in the current prison environment for such a site to be a success.

It says needle exchange programs have been proven to function well behind bars in protecting prisoners' health.

"The proposed supervised injection site at Drumheller cannot divert us from the pressing need for the Correctional Service of Canada to implement in all of its prisons an evidence-based (needle exchange program) capable of providing prisoners with easy, confidential and effective access to sterile injection equipment and all of its benefits," the network's research and advocacy director, Sandra Ka Hon Chu, said in a release.

Prisoners should also have access to naloxone nasal spray to treat overdoses and health-care staff — not correctional officers — should run needle exchange programs, she added.

Corrections spokeswoman Stephanie Stevenson said in an email that planning for the Drumheller site is ongoing.

"CSC is in discussion with unions and staff to ensure a safe working environment and to address any concerns about the implementation of the overdose prevention service."

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