Group calling on province to allow overdose prevention sites to open
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2018 10:48AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 5, 2018 1:15PM EDT
A group of health-care providers are holding a rally in Toronto this morning outside a federal opioid symposium to condemn the Ford government’s decision to stop three previously approved overdose prevention sites from opening.
The group says more than 850 health-care providers in the province have now signed an open letter urging the Ford government to expand funding for overdose prevention and supervised consumption services, which proponents say save lives, reduce infections, and connect people to treatment.
“Ontario’s health-care providers will not idly stand by as decisions are made that put people’s lives at risk. The evidence exists. We need action,” Melanie Spence, a registered nurse who works at a Supervised Consumption Service in Toronto, said in a news release issued Wednesday.
Public health officials estimate that 303 people died as a result of an opioid overdose in Toronto in 2017.
Speaking to CP24 at the rally on Wednesday, Spence said the situation is getting worse.
"We need the province to acknowledge that we are in the middle of a crisis," she said.
The open letter urges the government to allow the three overdose prevention sites that were already approved by the previous administration to open as planned, approve applications for new sites, expand and continue to fund overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites in partnership with Health Canada, and to develop a strategy to tackle the overdose crisis in consultation those who use drugs, front-line workers, and health-care providers.
Last month, the Ford government announced that they would be suspending the opening of three previously approved overdose prevention sites, including one in Toronto at the Parkdale Community Health Centre.
“The Toronto Overdose Prevention Society and Parkdale residents have had to respond to this crisis by taking matters into their own hands and opening a pop-up OPS without any funding or provincial support. This OPS should be allowed to open in the Parkdale Community Health Centre. The high overdose rates in Parkdale show just how necessary an OPS is for this area,” Gillian Kolla, from the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, said in the news release.
Overdose prevention sites are temporary facilities approved by the province, while safe injection sites, such as the facility at the Toronto Public Health building near Yonge-Dundas Square, are permanent, federally approved facilities.
Health Minister Christine Elliott previously said the province was putting the opening of the sites on hold so that there could be further review about whether they are effective.
“I just want to make sure that when public funds are being expended that supervised injection sites are going to serve their purpose, they are going to save lives, and they are going to help people get into rehab,” Elliott said in August.