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Alliance for Healthier Communities Statement on Government “Pause” on Overdose Prevention Sites

The Alliance for Healthier Communities is disappointed in the provincial government’s last-minute decision not to allow approved Overdose Prevention Sites across Ontario to open as scheduled. The site at NorWest Community Health Centre in Thunder Bay had been scheduled to open next week (Monday August 20) and the site at Parkdale-Queen West Community Health Centre in Toronto had been scheduled to open today (Monday August 13).

Revoking such an important health care service without notice is contrary to the process expected of an evidence-based review OPS and SCS services in the province, and puts lives unnecessarily at risk. Further, this decision risks wasting health care resources and costing planned local jobs. This is particularly evident in the North, where access to health care services is already limited.

At present five Community Health Centres in Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton and Kingston operate an OPS as an emergency stopgap measure toward Supervised Consumption Services (SCS), a harm reduction approach that connects people with access to supports and services. A further four Community Health Centres in Ottawa and Toronto operate full Supervised Consumption Services (SCS). They worked for over a decade collecting evidence of the benefits of this harm reduction approach and consulting with the local community to secure government approval.

The research evidence and provincial frontline experience, along with the experiences from other jurisdictions have shown that Supervised Injection Services and Overdose Prevention Sites provide many health benefits, including reversing overdoses and saving lives. We believe that these health services continue to be part of a comprehensive approach to the overdose emergency, along with harm reduction, prevention and treatment services, in response to this very challenging and complex health issue affecting so many people across this province. OPS reduce system costs for ambulance services, emergency rooms, and the criminal justice system, and act as a gateway to support, treatment and care.    

We remain confident that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s review of OPS and SCS will show the effectiveness of this program. We congratulate Minister Elliott on her decision to keep the London OPS open and urge the government to allow Ontario’s other scheduled OPS to open without further delay.

Monday, August 13, 2018