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Harm Reduct J. 2019 May 2;16(1):30. doi: 10.1186/s12954-019-0302-x.

Implementation contexts and the impact of policing on access to supervised consumption services in Toronto, Canada: a qualitative comparative analysis.

Author information

1
British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, 400-1045 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2A9, Canada. geoff.bardwell@bccsu.ubc.ca.
2
Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 400-1045 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2A9, Canada. geoff.bardwell@bccsu.ubc.ca.
3
Social and Behavioural Health Sciences, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Toronto, ON, M5T 3 M7, Canada.
4
South Riverdale Community Health Centre, 955 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON, M4M 3P3, Canada.
5
Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, 168 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON, M5V 2R4, Canada.
6
British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, 400-1045 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2A9, Canada.
7
Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 400-1045 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2A9, Canada.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Supervised consumption services (SCS) are being implemented across Canada in response to a variety of drug-related harms. We explored the implementation context of newly established SCS in Toronto and the role of policing in shaping program access by people who inject drugs (PWID).

METHODS:

We conducted one-to-one qualitative semi-structured interviews with 24 PWID. Participants were purposively recruited. Ethnographic observations were conducted at each of the study sites as well as in their respective neighbourhoods. Relevant policy documents were also reviewed.

RESULTS:

Policing was overwhelmingly discussed by participants from both SCS sites. However, participant responses varied depending on the site in question. Subthemes from participant responses on policing at site #1 described neighbourhood police presence and fears of police harassment and drug arrests before, during, or after accessing SCS. Conversely, subthemes from participant responses on policing at site #2 described immunity and protection from police while using the SCS, as well as a lack of police presence or fears of police harassment and arrests. These differences in implementation contexts were largely shaped by differences in local neighbourhoods and drug scenes. Police policies highlighted federal laws protecting PWID within SCS, but also the exercise of discretion when applying the rule of law outside of these settings.

CONCLUSIONS:

Participants' perspectives on, and experiences with, policing as they relate to accessing SCS were shaped by the implementation contexts of each SCS site and how neighbourhoods, drug scenes, and differences in policing practices affected service use. Our findings also demonstrate the disconnect between the goals of policing and those of SCS. Until larger structural barriers are addressed (e.g. criminalization), future SCS programming should consider the impact of policing on the SCS implementation context to improve client experience with, and access to, SCS.

KEYWORDS:

Implementation context; Police; Supervised consumption services; Supervised injection sites; Surveillance

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