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Open Letter to Minister Elliott Re: Supervised Injection Site/Overdose Prevention Site Announcement

September 28, 2018     

Re: Supervised Injection Site/Overdose Prevention Site Announcement

Dear Minister Elliott,

Your government’s decision today to extend the class exemption for the eight overdose prevention sites will allow them to operate legally for only one more month. 

As providers of these services we need to know as soon as possible when your government expects to conclude its review of supervised consumption services and overdose prevention sites. 

We are concerned that you are continuing to put “on hold” three approved overdose prevention sites. Since August, at least 28 people have died from overdose in those communities.  Health providers in St Catharines, Toronto, and Thunder Bay need to open as soon as possible to prevent further deaths. 

Providers in at least five other communities are stuck on your wait list while people are dying from overdose.

For the people who are depending on these services the continued instability will affect their health

As you know, Ontario remains gripped in an overdose crisis that has impacted many people and families. On an average day, three people die from an overdose in our province.

As health providers, we’ve seen first-hand the lives saved by harm reduction services. Since supervised consumption services and overdose prevention sites began opening in mid-2017, they’ve already saved 917 lives by reversing overdoses. With 1,400 lives lost from opioid overdoses in Ontario since the beginning of 2017, we are starting to make a significant difference. That’s 917 families who didn’t receive the worst news possible. That’s 917 people who still have a chance to build a better life.

The evidence is abundantly clear from international research and our experience on the frontlines in Ontario: supervised consumption and overdose prevention play vital roles in helping people get the help they need before a catastrophe takes place – before someone loses their mother, daughter, father or son. They’re also playing a role in helping to address hallway medicine, by ensuring that people get help before they end up in the emergency department.

Overdose prevention sites are a vital tool in providing a rapid response to local overdose prevention needs. They allow for a nimble approach that reduces harm to people who use drugs from the get-go, and they create opportunities to build trust back. The process to become a full-service supervised consumption service is long, filled with bureaucratic barriers and unnecessary complications. This government has committed to cutting red tape. We urge you to work with the federal government to ensure timely access to supervised consumption services and the funding for harm reduction and mental health which was recently pledged by the federal health minister.

We are committed to working with you and ensuring that everyone who needs these vital health services has access. We will continue to explore all avenues to ensure that we are able to offer the evidence-based care and harm reduction services that are our best chance at fighting the overdose crisis.  This includes continuing to work with you on the review.

We need to prevent overdose deaths for all Ontarians. We cannot turn our backs on the suffering of Ontario families and communities, not when we know what needs to be done.

Yours sincerely,

  • 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
  • Gerry Croteau, Executive Director, Gilbert Centre, Barrie
  • 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
  • Shaun Hopkins, Manager, The Works, Toronto Public Health
  • Juanita Lawson, Chief Executive Officer, NorWest Community Health Centres
  • Wendy Muckle, Executive Director, Ottawa Inner City Health, Inc.
  • Nilda Patey, Executive Director, Peel HIV/AIDS Network 
  • Kapri Rabin, Executive Director, Street Health, Toronto 
  • Bruce Rankin, Acting 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 
  • Rita Taillefer, Executive Director, Windsor Essex Community Health Centre 
  • Glen Walker, Executive Director, Positive Living Niagara

Bhutila Karpoche, MPP. NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions

John Fraser, MPP. Liberal Health Critic

Friday, September 28, 2018