City should reach out to PCs on in­jec­tion sites: health ad­vo­cate

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - JON WILLING jwill­ing@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/JonathanWilling

The city should reach out to Doug Ford’s in­com­ing pro­vin­cial govern­ment to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of su­per­vised in­jec­tion sites and other key so­cial pro­grams, said a lead­ing health ad­vo­cate.

“When we know who our new health min­is­ter is, I think we should make sure that some of these im­por­tant so­cial is­sues are brought to their at­ten­tion and their op­por­tu­ni­ties for res­o­lu­tion and treat­ment,” Jeff Turnbull, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Ot­tawa In­ner City Health, said Wed­nes­day af­ter the Al­liance to End Home­less­ness re­leased its an­nual progress re­port at city hall.

Ot­tawa In­ner City Health runs the su­per­vised in­jec­tion trailer at the Shep­herds of Good Hope.

Turnbull, the for­mer chief of staff at The Ot­tawa Hos­pi­tal, de­scribed the pro­found im­pact of the opi­oid cri­sis. Staff at the su­per­vised in­jec­tion trailer deal with an av­er­age of four over­doses daily, he said.

“We’re just try­ing to keep peo­ple alive,” Turnbull told city coun- cil­lors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from so­cial agen­cies who gath­ered for the re­port’s re­lease.

It’s un­clear how the PC govern­ment will ap­proach in­jec­tion sites. Ford has ex­pressed ob­jec­tion to them but has also shown a will­ing­ness to lis­ten to ex­perts.

“I think when the new govern­ment comes in and gets to un­der­stand many of the is­sues that we face on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, I’m con­fi­dent that they will un­der­stand this is an im­por­tant part of an over­all ad­dic­tions strat­egy,” Turnbull said. “It’s just one part, but it’s an es­sen­tial part of what we’re do­ing.”

The Al­liance’s re­port high­lights the trou­bling sta­tis­tics re­ported by the City of Ot­tawa in March. Emer­gency shel­ter use has in­creased since 2014. The num­ber of chron­i­cally home­less fam­i­lies spiked be­tween 2016 and 2017.

Deirdre Frei­heit, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Shep­herds of Good Hope, un­der­scored the im­por­tance of hav­ing su­per­vised in­jec­tion sites in ar­eas where they’re needed most.

“I think it’s so needed,” Frei­heit said. “I think what (Ford) has said is that he’s willing to lis­ten to some ad­vice from peo­ple who are in the field and work­ing with peo­ple who are strug­gling with is­sues and re­quir­ing the ser­vices, so there’s hope. I look for­ward to ac­tu­ally hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions.”

The Shep­herds is in the mid­dle of renovations to per­ma­nently house the su­per­vised in­jec­tion site.

Frei­heit hopes to have the per­ma­nent space open in the fall.

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