Temporary supervised drug-use site to open in London, Ont.

February 12, 2018
Article Source
The Globe and Mail

A temporary overdose prevention site will open its doors in London, Ont. Monday – the first of what is expected to be many under a new provincial emergency response program that will fill the gap for communities waiting on permanent supervised injection sites.

Thousands of people are dying from overdoses every year across Canada. In Ontario alone, there were 336 opioid-related deaths between May and July last year, up 68 per cent from that same period the year before. Fentanyl, a drug so potent that mere grains of it can be lethal, was a factor in 67 per cent of those deaths – up from 41 per cent in 2016, and 19 per cent in 2015.

The wait for a federal exemption from Health Canada to open a permanent supervised injection site is a lengthy one – and as the death toll continues to climb, harm-reduction experts have long been calling for the federal government to expedite that process.

"There are kind of three ways of [opening a site]. One, you get the federal exemption, a process that takes time and requires you to have a lot of ducks in a row," Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of health for the Middlesex London Health Unit, explained Sunday.

"The second is, you do it illegally," he says, referring to locations such as Toronto's pop-up site in Moss Park, which has been operating since last summer with tacit approval from the city and police.

The new "overdose prevention site" (OPS) program – announced by Eric Hoskins, Ontario's Minister of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC), in December – now provides a third avenue.

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