Three Toronto health centres could operate supervised injection sites: report
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, March 14, 2016 5:39AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 15, 2016 7:03AM EDT
A new report authored by Toronto’s top doctor has identified three health centres that could operate supervised injection sites for drug users in the city.
The three locations identified in the report include the Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre, the South Riverdale Community Health Centre and the Toronto Public Health facility located at 277 Victoria St.
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, is proposing that the centres, which currently run the three busiest needle distribution programs in the city, could offer small-scale supervised injection services on top of their existing services to drug users.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference Monday, McKeown said his support for safe injection sites is two-fold.
“(Supervised injection sites) save lives and limit the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C by reducing unsafe injection practices such as the sharing of previously used needles,” he said.
“Research has also shown that there are benefits for the community that they reduce the public drug use and discarded needles associated with injection drug use and in fact they do not increase criminal activity in areas where they are located.”
In 2013, 206 people died in Toronto from a drug overdose, up 41 per cent from 2004, McKeown said.
The report will be presented to the Toronto Board of Health at a meeting on March 21.
“My report to the Board of Health outlines the process for implementing supervised injection services and seeks support to begin community consultations,” he said.
The consultations are required for federal government approval of the sites.
McKeown said there are currently 90 supervised injection sites operating around the world, including two in Vancouver. He added that Montreal is a few steps ahead of Toronto when it comes to implementing safe injection sites as the city has already made an application to the federal government.
“I believe this type of health service in needed in Toronto to reduce the unnecessary deaths and disease transmission that are impacting so many lives,” McKeown concluded.
Ward 20 Coun. Joe Cressy, who is the chair of the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel, said preventing overdose deaths must be the "top public health priority" in the city.
“More people will die needlessly unless we act,” Cressy told reporters Monday.
“These programs will save lives. They will provide comprehensive health services to those who need it. These programs will also make our communities safer. They will move drug use and needles from streets, our parks, our backyards and our coffee shops and into a supportive and safe environment.”
But not all city councillors are supportive of the idea.
Ward 7 Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti says he is "completely and totally" opposed to introducing supervised injection sites in Toronto.
“I think that if you are going to treat anyone who is ill, it should be in a hospital setting… not in communities, not in store fronts, not in commercial plazas," he told CP24 Monday afternoon.
"Secondly, I have an issue with legitimizing heroine and I think indirectly that is what we are doing here."