Dr. Mark Tyndall dedicated his career to studying HIV, poverty and drug use in multiple places around the world, starting with Nairobi, and now in Vancouver. Mark has seen a lot of people die. Needlessly.
Dr Tyndall is an epidemiologist, physician and public health expert. An early advocate for harm reduction programs, Mark was at the forefront of North America’s first legally sanctioned supervised injection facility, INSITE, established in Vancouver in 2003. Since then, studies have shown that safe injection sites save lives, reduce transmission of disease and help people access addiction treatment and other medical services.
He is a proponent of evidence-based public health policy and interventions. He authored more than 250 academic papers and received multiple honours for his work. Mark was formerly the Director of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. He is a professor at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia and adjunct professor at SFU.
Mark on Harm Reduction
Mark is an outspoken critic of the Alberta provincial government’s approach to harm reduction. In 2020 Premier Kenny stated that Vancouver’s Harm Reduction sites are not a solution to overdose deaths. Mark responded, “Kenney’s statement is categorically false. To make a correlation between bad outcomes and harm reduction is clearly a flawed way of looking at it. Without harm reduction, things would be a lot worse. To say that harm reduction hasn’t made any difference is against all the research and all of our experience.”
“Why do we still think that drug use is a law-enforcement issue? Making drugs illegal does nothing to stop people from using them.”
“There is a poison, toxic drug supply out there. They are buying poison on the street.”
“There’s a lot of us who feel a bit burnt out about the whole thing. Man, I’ve seen a lot of people die.”
“I’m hesitant to go put up with something if I’m just going to be judged and talked down to and made to feel like I have all these problems when I’m trying to just not die.”
On Dec. 16th, Edmonton community outreach groups, families, people with lived and living experience, and health-care providers gathered to stand in solidarity with people who use substances.
Organizers were aiming to send a message. As drug poisoning deaths continue to increase and the illegal drug supply becomes more toxic and unpredictable, current drug laws continue to amplify suffering. More safe injection services are needed.
This is an area local churches can be a support.
An argument against safe-injection sites is that they are a danger to the community because of discarded needles and items left behind by drug users. What if local churches engaged training for volunteers to safely clean the areas outside so that professionals could focus on saving lives inside?
What if pastors spoke up in support of saving the lives of drug users?
Why is abstinence the primary solution offered to addicts who risk death to feed their addiction?
Mark’s TED Talk
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