to within existing community facilities, including one run by the city — the first of their kind in Ontario. Today, there are four permanent sites located in Queen West, Yonge-dundas, Moss Park and Leslieville, at a cost of $3.5 million annually. Five emergency overdose prevention sites have been approved to operate for six months.
The province, under the Liberals and through the ministry of health, has been providing 100 per cent of the operating funding for those services. The overdose prevention sites also rely on provincial approvals to continue operating after six months.
Their future is now in question after Ford told reporters during the election campaign he was “dead against” supervised injection sites. The number of overdose deaths in Toronto has steadily increased in the last five years, from 104 recorded in 2013 to 303 in 2017.
The city’s supervised injection sites have nurses who monitor users while they inject drugs, and look for signs of overdose and infection. The sites have seen thousands of visits since they opened, and no deaths have occurred at any of them.
“It is very, very important that we not only continue to save lives and demonstrate to people that we care about them, but I think the message to addicts if we go back on our policy is a very destructive message about their place in society,” Dr. Howard Ovens, Ontario’s expert lead for emergency medicine and the former chief of the department of emergency medicine at Sinai Health Sys- tem, told the Star.
Ovens noted the city has not experienced the ill effects predicted by those who opposed supervised injection sites.
In Moss Park, where volunteers have been running an unsanctioned overdose prevention site out of a tent and then a donated trailer for almost a year, more than 200 overdoses have been reversed. Recently, the group was given legal status with provincial funding to operate for at least six months in a new permanent home nearby.
Activist and registered nurse Leigh Chapman, whose brother Brad died of an overdose in 2015, called Ford’s stance on harm reduction “dangerous.”
“This is really scary to have an anti-harm reduction premier in the midst of the worst public health crisis in our generation,” said Chapman, who has been volunteering at the Moss Park site.
“This is a game changer for sure.”
The board of health meets June 18, council meets starting on June 26.
With files from Emily Mathieu Zoe Dodd begins to set up the Moss Park overdose prevention site — where more than 200 overdoses have been reversed — earlier this spring. Recently, the group was given legal status with provincial funding to operate for at least six months.