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Letter to Minister Elliott regarding decision on consumption treatment services

April 1, 2019

Hon. Christine Elliott
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
10th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor St
Toronto, ON M7A 1E9

Re: Decision on Consumption Treatment Services

Dear Minister Elliott,

We appreciate the commitment of the provincial government to approve 15 sites to operate Consumption and Treatment Services. However, we are deeply concerned that the government has, without notice or transition plans in place, decided to close several of the 19 currently operating overdose prevention services in the province. Minister, we know you have an expressed commitment to seamless transitions and ensuring no one falls through the cracks. We are calling on you to provide a three-month extension of funding support to allow these sites to develop and implement a transition plan.

Ontario remains gripped in a public health crisis, with an average of 3 people dying every day from drug overdoses and a poisoned drug supply that is not going away. Closing low-barrier health services that support very marginalized populations is extremely disappointing and the implications are alarming given that many people rely on these safe consumption services as part of their strategy to stay alive.
Without any transition plan in place, the 15 sites that were approved to continue operating do not have the immediate capacity and/or geographic proximity to the closed sites to take on the influx of clients that will no longer be able to access harm reduction services.
The most recent statistics show that over 600 Ontarians died from opioid overdoses in the first six months of 2018. Across the province there is already more demand for supervised consumption services than capacity. We are concerned that other agencies that had planned to open Consumption and Treatment Service (CTS) in communities hard hit by the opioid crisis will not be able to bring these lifesaving services to people dealing with substance use.
Minister, we appeal to you to reconsider your decision and approve all existing sites. If you will not allow them to operate, we ask that you support a three-month transition phase. The Province would continue to fund the sites during this period to allow implementation of a transition plan to support a community of clients who have come to rely on these harm reduction services.
During this overdose crisis, Ontario needs more services that meet people’s needs in the most low-barrier approach possible, not cuts to services. There are two issues at stake: long-term systems planning to support people dealing with substance use, and saving lives during the immediate public health emergency. We will continue to advocate on both fronts as we provide the supervised consumption and treatment services that we know save lives, connect people to services, improve community safety and save public spending on emergency services.

Yours sincerely,

  • Mark Aston, Executive Director, Fred Victor Centre, Toronto
  • Mike Bell, Chief Executive Officer, Kingston Community Health Centres
  • Denise Brooks, Executive Director, Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre
  • Naini Cloutier, Executive Director, Somerset West Community Health Centre, Ottawa
  • Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health
  • Raechelle Devereaux, Executive Director, Guelph Community Health Centre
  • Paulos Gebreyesus, Executive Director, Regent Park Community Health Centre, Toronto
  • David B. Gibson, Executive Director, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Ottawa
  • Juanita Lawson, Chief Executive Officer, NorWest Community Health Centres
  • Wendy Muckle, Executive Director, Ottawa Inner City Health, Inc.
  • Kapri Rabin, Executive Director, Street Health, Toronto
  • Brian Lester, Executive Director, London Regional HIV/AIDS Connection
  • Lynne Raskin, Chief Executive Officer, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Toronto
  • Angela Robertson, Executive Director, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
  • Bill Sinclair, Executive Director, St. Stephen's Community House, Toronto
  • Glen Walker, Executive Director, Positive Living Niagara

cc.
Bhutila Karpoche, MPP. NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions
John Fraser, MPP. Liberal Health Critic

Monday, April 1, 2019