A group of drug harm reduction workers pitched tents in Moss Park — declaring it a temporary, and technically illegal — supervised injection site.
The recent spate of overdose deaths in Toronto and the GTA has prompted a group of workers who assist people addicted to opioids and other drugs to set up supervised injection site without prior approval from police or the federal government.
“When you have 12 people who die over the course of five days, that is a public health emergency,” Zoe Dodd of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance said Saturday. “We’ve been telling city officials and anyone who would listen that we’re in a crisis that has been escalating since last year — mounting deaths, happening in parks, people are just dropping.”
The group says the tents are stocked with as many as 140 naloxone kits to revive those experiencing a fentanyl overdose.
Because the city’s three approved injection sites aren’t complete yet and won’t be ready for months, Dodd said harm reduction workers have to take matters into their own hands.
“We can’t wait until the fall with the number of deaths that are occurring now,” Matt Johnson said.
Olympia Trypis lost her best friend, Brooklyn, when she overdosed and could not be revived.
“I’ve overdosed six times and my friend Brooklyn, her seventh was her final overdose, so I’m here to help hopefully not reach my seventh overdose,” she told CTV News Toronto.
The group feared police would respond to the scene and shut them down Saturday afternoon, but after some discussions, Supt. Heinz Kuck said he decided to allow it, for at least one day.
“Although Toronto police do not totally agree with a site like this popping up, because we have the aspect of illegal drugs coming and going, the crisis supersedes that at this point and time.”
He said Dodd, Johnson and the other workers had proved to him they were there to save lives.
“The one defining moment that convinced me to let this process take place was the absolute professionalism and the process they have put in place, with nurses on site, (Naloxone) on site, distribution articles on site.”
But Kuck said the ultimate decision on whether to allow the site to continue running would be up to Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory.