Board of Health approves proposal for safe injection sites in downtown Toronto
Courtney Greenberg, CTV Toronto
Published Monday, July 4, 2016 12:59PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 4, 2016 7:14PM EDT
Toronto Public Health adopted a proposal for safe injection sites on Monday afternoon at city hall. The debate came days after an advocate for safe injection sites died of an overdose.
Brooklyn McNeil was the final speaker to discuss the topic in front of the committee in March.
She told them, “I’ve already started my journey in the realm of harm reduction.”
McNeil died Wednesday in an alleyway. It was her seventh overdose.
Others spoke on her behalf at city hall in front of the board and asked for three small downtown injection sites: one at Toronto Public Health’s The Works Needle Exchange, another at Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre and a third at South Riverdale Community Health Centre.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown told CP24 on Monday that safe injection sites “offer supervision and intervention in the case of overdose. There has never been an overdose death at safe injection sites.”
He said there has been “more awareness about overdose deaths” in the past two or three years.
John MacDonald is a harm reduction worker at Eva’s Satellite, a place that helps youth with substance abuse problems. He said, “Drugs are getting strong and more and more overdoses are happening.”
MacDonald said McNeil might be alive if she had access to a safe injection site.
“It's health care, if someone was having a heart attack you wouldn't close the hospital,” he told CP24 on Monday. “People are dying every week. It's going to get worse unless we open safe injection sites. They won't save everybody, but even if one life is saved it's worth opening up.”
Coun. Joe Cressy told CTV Toronto Monday that Toronto has “reached a tipping point.”
The proposal that went before the board Monday included information from a study by the Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment (TOSCA). The study concluded that the city would benefit from “multiple supervised injection services that are integrated into existing health services already serving people who inject drugs.”
The study revealed that between 2004 and 2014 there was a 77 per cent increase in the reported number of people who died from an overdose in Toronto. The number of overdose deaths went from 146 to 258 -- the highest annual number to date, according to TOSCA.
The proposal will still have to go to council for approval.
With files from Scott Lightfoot