‘Makes you feel you’re not alone’

Ottawa Sun - - NEWS - Jwill­ing@post­media.com twit­ter.com/JonathanWilling

A new trailer ar­rives at the the Shep­herds of Good Hope yes­ter­day. Right, drug user John Sang­ster pre­pares an opi­oid in­jec­tion. runs for 12 hours each day, start­ing at 9 a.m., at Ottawa Pub­lic Health’s Clarence Street build­ing. The Sandy Hill Com­mu­nity Health Cen­tre also has a fed­eral ex­emp­tion to run an in­jec­tion site, but it’s still com­plet­ing ren­o­va­tions at its Nel­son Street build­ing.

Vol­un­teer group Over­dose Preven­tion Ottawa has been op­er­at­ing an un­sanc­tioned ser­vice for three hours each night in a tent at Raphael Brunet Park, just around the cor­ner from Shep­herds.

Frei­heit said there are still sig­nif­i­cant gaps in su­per­vised in­jec­tion ser­vices, even with two pro­grams in op­er­a­tion.

“The ma­jor­ity of our clients aren’t walk­ing the block to the pop-up tent for the care,” Frei­heit said.

That also means they’re prob­a­bly not walk­ing to the health unit’s clinic on Clarence Street.

Frei­heit said Shep­herds clients want to stay close to the shel­ter to do their drugs, which is why a su­per­vised in­jec­tion site on the prop­erty is crit­i­cal at a time when the deadly fen­tanyl and car­fen­tanil are be­ing passed off as heroin on Ottawa streets.

“We don’t want clients to be go­ing off on their own and be in cri­sis and die some­where,” Frei­heit said. “We want them to be close to us.”

The su­per­vised in­jec­tion ser­vice at Shep­herds would be run by Ottawa In­ner City Health, which is al­ready train­ing staff in an­tic­i­pa­tion of re­ceiv­ing fed­eral ap­proval.

Ottawa In­ner City Health filed an ap­pli­ca­tion last Fe­bru­ary to es­tab­lish a su­per­vised in­jec­tion site at Shep­herds but re­cently put the ap­pli­ca­tion on hold to file a new pro­posal, which the or­ga­ni­za­tion hopes will lead to a faster ap­proval. Health Canada re­ceived the new ap­pli­ca­tion Sept. 29.

“We’re good to go,” said Wendy Muckle, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ottawa In­ner City Health. “It’s not like we have any choice. We’ve had a hellish sum­mer.”

Muckle said Ottawa In­ner City Health counted 75 over­dose “reversals” in Septem­ber 2017. In Septem­ber 2016, there was one.

If the fit-up of the trailer goes ac­cord­ing to sched­ule, it should be ready for clients by the end of the month, but it all de­pends on the fed­eral ap­proval. The or­ga­ni­za­tion also needs fund­ing from the prov­ince.

“All we can re­ally do is hope the feds and the prov­ince feel the same as what we do,” Muckle said.

Muckle lauded the health unit’s work to quickly get ap­proval for its su­per­vised in­jec­tion site on Clarence Street, but she said Shep­herds clients who are us­ing drugs tend to stick around their “safe spot” at the shel­ter.

“It’s not a good fit for their cul­ture and their needs,” Muckle said of the health unit’s site.

The other prob­lem is the op­er­at­ing hours of the two su­per­vised in­jec­tion ser­vices. The health unit and the tent both wrap up op­er­a­tions each night at 9 p.m.

Frei­heit said the real need is late at night and in the early hours.

“What we’re find­ing with our clients is the clus­ter of over­doses are hap­pen­ing between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m.,” Frei­heit said, un­der­scor­ing the need to have an aroundthe-clock in­jec­tion site.

“It re­ally is dire. We have to be able to pro­vide th­ese ser­vices,” Frei­heit said. “It’s not wan­ing any­time soon.”

Artist An­drea Mueller has a stu­dio that over­looks the park­ing lot be­side Saint Brigid’s Cen­tre for the Arts. Al­most ev­ery day she sees some­one shoot­ing up.

Mueller said ten­ants feel un­safe when there are peo­ple out­side the build­ing in­ject­ing drugs. It can’t con­tinue, she said.

“I just want peo­ple to un­der­stand it’s a prob­lem and it’s hap­pen­ing in our city, it’s hap­pen­ing in our back­yard,“Mueller said. “The city has to act and take this se­ri­ously.”

Sang­ster, who has been a drug addict for about five years, said he doesn’t mind be­ing iden­ti­fied through an in­ter­view and pho­to­graphs if it means Ottawa res­i­dents and politi­cians will gain an un­der­stand­ing of how badly a su­per­vised in­jec­tion site is needed at Shep­herds.

In turn, drug users will gain an­other safe spot sur­rounded by peo­ple who care about their health.

“The coun­sel and ed­u­ca­tion will be price­less,” Sang­ster said.

TONY CALD­WELL PHO­TOS

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