Greg's blog

The harm reduction model of drug addiction treatment

"We know that if recovery is ever going to happen, we have to keep people alive". When it comes to combatting drug use, Mark Tyndall believes sanctions aren't enough, and that they sometimes hurt more than they help. As Executive Medical Director for the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Mark has come to see the importance of providing drug users with all different types of support.

From supervised injection sites to methadone clinics, Mark has been an early adopter and leader of various harm reduction efforts in Vancouver, BC. Tune in to his 2017 TEDMED Talk to learn more about how these models have not only saved lives, but have also become the first step to recovery for many suffering from drug addiction.

RNAO releases best practices guideline on implementing supervised injection services

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario has just published its Best Practice Guideline on Implementing Supervised Injection Services. We're very proud to have contributed as stakeholders in the development of this guide, along with many other nurses, harm reduction professionals, and advocates.

"These approaches promote engagement, support positive health outcomes, and help reduce harms associated with injection drug use."

OPO transitioning to the second phase of advocacy and service delivery

This blog post originally appeared on the Overdose Prevention Ottawa website.

It is with heavy hearts that Overdose Prevention Ottawa share that we are closing the service we have provided on the patch of grass located at 307 St. Patrick Street since August 25, 2017. In over two months, we have had 3445 visits, reversed five overdoses with naloxone, and prevented hundreds more through various interventions, including enhanced monitoring, providing a safe space for people to consume drugs, to be able to take their time, and experience connection and belonging within the community.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa provided the first public safe space in our city for people to use drugs, primarily through injection and inhalation. At that time, there were no harm reduction services that provided a space for people to safely consume drugs. We have built relationships of trust with people, the building blocks of healing deep wounds. Every day, our guests tell us that they and their friends are alive because of our services.

In just over two months, we have accomplished much to make our city safer for people who use drugs, to combat stigma and criminalization, and fix some of the many gaps in the healthcare system. For 74 days, we have operated without any support from any level of government. It is only through the tireless efforts of our more than 200 volunteers, and through the donations of thousands of private supporters were we able to stand up where our government had failed so many. It is shameful that so many individuals have had to sacrifice so much to fix that failing. But it is also truly inspiring to see the love, the compassion, and unwavering support of our neighbours in the face of this emergency. We have created a powerful community of advocates and we will continue to use that strength to both demand and actively build a better city for everyone.

CFI presents "The Stairs" in Ottawa

Shot over the course of several years, Hugh Gibson’s profoundly affecting and compassionate documentary examines the lives of habitual drug users in Toronto’s Regent Park.

One night only: Sat Oct 14, 7:00PM, Richcraft Hall Theatre, Carleton University
Special Audience Q&A: Director Hugh Gibson & Dr. Marilou Gagnon (U of Ottawa)

Presented by the Canadian Film Institute. Admission is $9.00 for CFI Members and Seniors, $13.00 for the general public. For unwaged persons, admission is pay-what-you-can. This event is free for Carleton University staff and students.

Tickets: www.cfi-icf.ca
Trailer: thestairsdoc.com

Hugh Gibson's compassionate and profoundly affecting The Stairs takes us inside Toronto's Regent Park Community Health Centre, whose staff of social workers includes both former and current drug users. These workers understand all too well what their clients are going through.

Shot over five years, Gibson's film focuses on three staff members: the loquacious, seemingly tireless Marty, who was so addicted at one point that, after being shot in a deal that went south, he stopped for a hit before going to the hospital; Roxanne, a former sex worker whose tales of life in the trade are beyond harrowing; and Greg, a biracial child of the 1960s consumed with a long-delayed legal case hinging on a police officer's use of excessive force.

CSCS supports Overdose Prevention Ottawa's life-saving initiative

The Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa was formed in 2011 to advocate for evidence-based, compassionate responses to problematic drug use that focus on reducing harm and fostering healthier and safer communities for all.

The recent establishment of the city’s first pop-up overdose prevention site by Overdose Prevention Ottawa is the realization of one of our campaign’s founding goals. By offering a low-barrier, non-judgemental space for people to use drugs under supervision, OPO have taken urgent action to confront a growing health crisis.

The members of CSCSO extend our full support to OPO’s organizers and volunteers. We’re pleased to announce our donation of $1000 to aid Overdose Prevention Ottawa in their ongoing work to provide life-saving harm reduction services.

We commend OPO for responding to an overdose epidemic which has decimated communities in Western Canada and shows no signs of slowing down in Ontario. Their bold actions stand in sharp contrast to our current societal response to drug use, which is unnecessarily punitive, cruel, and expensive, in both tax dollars and in the cost to human lives.

Over the past 6 years, CSCSO have been honoured to be the recipients of funding and donations from individuals and groups including OPIRG-Ottawa, the Carleton University Graduate Association, and Promdemonium. We trust that our supporters will agree that there is no better use for these funds than in support of a peer-centered service that promotes the health and dignity of vulnerable people in our community.

OPO relies on the generosity of donors to keep their overdose prevention site running. We urge you to give what you can so that this essential health care initiative can continue, whether it be financial aid, snacks and drinks for their guests, or meals for their volunteers.

Please join us in voicing your support for Overdose Prevention Ottawa and evidence-based health policy to Mayor Jim Watson, the Chief of Police, and your City Councillor. Let them know that people who use drugs are our neighbours, family, and friends, and that their lives and safety are important and valued.

To learn more about Overdose Prevention Ottawa’s important work, connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Towards a safer and healthier Ottawa,
The Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa

Overdose Prevention Ottawa supporters

Overdose Prevention Ottawa continues life-saving service on twentieth day of operations

This blog post originally appeared on the Overdose Prevention Ottawa website.

On its twentieth day of operation, Overdose Prevention Ottawa (OPO) continues to provide life-saving harm reduction services to its guests.

OPO applauds the upcoming expedited opening of Sandy Hill Community Centre’s supervised injection service, and yesterday’s announcement that Ottawa Public Health will be opening a satellite supervised injection service on Clarence Street in the coming weeks. We are also encouraged to see Somerset West Community Health Centre’s and Ottawa Inner City Health`s supervised injection service pending approval by Health Canada.

OPO has worked collaboratively with all Ottawa harm-reduction partners and stakeholders since opening and will continue to do so moving forward. As OPO continues to be the only active overdose prevention service coupled with harm reduction services for those most affected by drug prohibition and homelessness, our services will continue operating. OPO is committed to an evidence-based model of care that is demonstrably successful and unique in the City of Ottawa. Decades of advocacy by people who use drugs informed our best practices. Our guests have been clear that what we offer works for them; “this is saving my life” are words we regularly hear from guests using the tents.

Open letter to Centretown Community Health Centre regarding changes in harm reduction services

To the Board of Directors of Centretown Community Health Centre,

We are writing because people who access harm reduction services at Centretown CHC have noticed a change in service delivery. 

Examples of changes include:

  • Closure of the private, easy-to-access harm reduction room, requiring people to ask for bags of harm reduction supplies from the front desk in the public lobby space. This means that people who deserve confidentiality no longer have that option. This confidentiality includes having privacy from other workers at the Centre.
  • The removal of the designated harm reduction worker. This worker provided services beyond harm reduction like connection to essential resources, including immediate access to health care, housing resources, counselling, addiction resources, etc. that otherwise people would not have received.

National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis

Our lives won’t wait.

That’s why on February 21st people who use drugs in seven Canadian cities will participate in demonstrations and marches to change Canadian drug policy for the better.

Join us in Ottawa to call on the federal government to:

  1. End the War on Drugs. In the short-term, decriminalize possession of all drugs. In the long term full legalization and regulation of drugs.
  2. Grant immediate exemptions to all supervised injection service (SIS) applicants and/or define them and any future SIS as health services implemented solely by provincial authorities.
  3. Create a specific harm reduction initiative as part of the new Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, to support, expand and adequately fund harm reduction programs and strategies including explicit funding for the development of drug user-based organizations and advocacy groups.
  4. Remove barriers and increase access to opioid substitution therapy including access to prescription heroin.
  5. Implement harm reduction in prisons : needle exchange programs, increasing access to opioid substitution therapy and continuation after release

Coming soon to Ontario: supervised injection sites

TVO's The Agenda hosts an excellent in-depth discussion of the benefits of supervised injection sites and the pressing need in Ottawa & Toronto with Joe Cressy and Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi.

Last July, Toronto approved the establishment of three safe injection sites and now, in an effort to battle opioid overdose deaths, the province has agreed to fund those sites and one in Ottawa. Toronto Councillor Joe Cressy has been a strong advocate for the public health benefits of such facilities. Dr. Bayoumi is the co-author of the 2012 TOSCA report on the harm reduction potential of safe injection sites in Ottawa and Toronto.

Results of Ottawa Public Health harm reduction public consultation study

This past summer, Ottawa Public Health conducted a public consultation survey on enhanced harm reduction services in Ottawa. Over 2,200 people completed the survey, which was available online and in paper format in English and French. The survey was anonymous, confidential, and voluntary.



Survey results indicated that:

  • 60% of respondents thought that offering harm reduction services in more areas of the city would be beneficial.
  • 66% of respondents thought that longer hours would be beneficial.
  • 62% of respondents thought that having harm reduction dispensing units available would be beneficial.
  • 66% of respondents thought that having supervised injection services available would be beneficial.

When asked for recommendations on how to address community concerns, specifically regarding
supervised injection services, the top three recommendations were:

  1. Provide information to the community about the goals and benefits of supervised injection services (61%);
  2. Evaluate services, share results with the community and respond to evaluation results (58%);
  3. Establish a community advisory group to identify and address issues as they emerge (50%).

Read the full report here.

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