Health officials to pitch proposal for safe drug injection facilities in Toronto
Published Saturday, March 12, 2016 6:56PM EST
Toronto health officials are expected to make a pitch for supervised safe injection facilities in Toronto.
The new proposal aims to take illegal drug use off the streets, and prevent overdoses and the spread of disease by giving users a safe and supervised place to inject drugs.
In a statement released Saturday, Toronto Public Health said that Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s chief medical officer of health, will discuss “expanding harm-reduction services” in Toronto at a news conference on Monday.
“Supervised injection services are health services that provide a safe, hygienic environment for people to inject pre-obtained drugs under a nurse’s supervision,” the statement said.
McKeown is expected to recommend that the sites be located within existing health centres or clinics that currently work with drug addicts.
Along with providing a clean space and clean supplies, there would also be access to treatment and support services.
There are currently more than 90 similar injection sites worldwide. The first and only Canadian location is the well-known Insite facility, which has been in operation in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood since 2003.
Advocates for safe injection sites say that not only do the facilities reduce drug overdoses, they make outdoor spaces safer for the community.
Currently, there are dozens of places in Toronto that provide clean needles and supplies to people who need them, but once they are used, the discarded items often end up in washrooms, stairwells and public spaces such as children’s playgrounds.
Shirley Roberts, executive director of the Parkdale Community Health Centre, said a safe injection site is “absolutely necessary” for Toronto.
“In other safe injection sites, what people find is, practically 70 per cent of people come for other reasons,” Roberts said. “The whole point is to have the wraparound services that are required, really, for people who are particularly stigmatized and marginalized and don’t often get access to services.”
Unlike in Vancouver, the majority of Toronto’s injection drug users are not located in one specific neighbourhood, so the plan would be to open 3-5 supervised injection sites at locations across the city.
Coun. Joe Cressy is getting behind the push for a safe injection site.
“I think overdosing should be the top public health priority of our city,” Cressy told CTV Toronto. “This is about saving lives.”
Cressy said that the sites would not only curb overdose deaths, but keep needles and other drug paraphernalia out of the city’s parks, laneways and coffee shops.
“This is good evidence-based policy that is going to make our communities safer,” Cressy said.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Scott Lightfoot