Sandy Hill injection site faces further opening-date delay

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As temperatures drop, the indoor supervised injection site planned for the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre didn’t open by the end of October, as hoped. 

The health centre’s Nelson Street facility has been undergoing preparatory work on the site, but it says it’s still waiting on provincial funding for renovations – and those behind the Health-Canada approved project are hesitant about setting a new target date. 

An outdoor injection tent in a Lowertown park is filling what organizers say is an urgent need in the overdose crisis. Another injection site, in a trailer at the Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray Street, could be open as soon as this weekend.

Rob Boyd, the health centre’s director of the Oasis harm reduction program, said the capital application was finalized about two weeks ago. The health centre had to get assessments on engineering and architecture before submitting the documents for provincial consideration.

Boyd, who didn’t have the capital cost estimate immediately at hand, had hoped to have the supervised injection site open by now.

“It’s very frustrating to know we’re so close and not operating,” Boyd said, recognizing that there’s an immediate need for harm-reduction programs during an opioid crisis.

Sandy Hill has received provincial approval for the operations cost, but it needs the capital funding approval to actually build the injection site at its Nelson Street facility.

Boyd won’t make any more predictions on when Sandy Hill’s injection service will be available, not knowing how long the funding approval, construction tendering and construction will take.

When the health centre has its supervised injection site constructed, it will need an all-clear by Health Canada to begin operations.

The federal government granted Sandy Hill a conditional exemption last July to run a supervised injection site. The exemption is scheduled to expire on July 30, 2018.

Ottawa Public Health is using Sandy Hill’s exemption to run its own supervised injection service on Clarence Street.

On Monday night, the board of health gave OPH permission to seek its own federal exemption for the Clarence Street clinic. The approval could keep the clinic running after the Sandy Hill injection site opens.

The Somerset West Community Health Centre has also applied to host an injection site at its Eccles Street facility. 

By Jon Willing
Source: Ottawa Citizen