The Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa was formed in response to an ongoing health crisis.
Ottawa has Ontario’s highest rate of new HIV infection among injection drug users. 11% of people who inject drugs in Ottawa are infected with HIV, while 70% have contracted hepatitis C. Someone dies of drug overdose every 8 days in our city — deaths that could be prevented with timely medical intervention.
Supervised consumption sites are public health facilities that offer a safe, hygienic place where people can use their own drugs under medical supervision.
Canada’s first supervised injection site, Insite, has been operating since 2003 in downtown Vancouver. The evidence from Insite – and from over 90 such sites around the world – proves that supervised consumption sites reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV, prevent overdose deaths, and improve access to addiction treatment programs. They have also been shown to encourage cleaner, safer streets by reducing public drug use and drug equipment litter.
Opening supervised drug consumption sites in Ottawa would:
Reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis-C by providing sterile equipment and safe disposal for used needles
Prevent deaths caused by overdose
Decrease public drug use and drug-equipment litter
Provide access to health and social services, such as first aid treatment and addiction recovery programs
Sign the petition to show your support for supervised drug consumption services in Ottawa.
With the promise of funding in the Ontario budget tabled Thursday, Ottawa’s first supervised drug-injection site will almost certainly open later this year.
Though no dollar amounts were announced, the document firms up a promise by Health Minister Eric Hoskins in January in supporting an application from the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre.
The centre has asked for $1.4 million annually to run the site, which organizers hope will be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week in their location on Nelson Street, near the corner of Rideau.
Rob Boyd, director of the Oasis program at Sandy Hill — and a key figure in the injection-site application — said he was pleased to see Ottawa’s plan mentioned in the document. “This is going to happen.”
He was initially hoping the site would open this summer but he said the centre needs at least four to six weeks after capital funding has been secured. The site would accommodated by reconfiguring existing space in the centre.
“We can’t get this open fast enough,” said Boyd. He said he’s very concerned about the spike in overdoses that struck the city in a 72-hour period last week, suggesting an influx of a powerful version of fentanyl had flooded normal supply lines.
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.
With no time to waste, Somerset West Community Health Centre is moving forward with its plan to offer a supervised injection site.
“Our current attempts at solving the drug crisis are not enough,” Stan Kupferschmidt, harm reduction outreach worker at the centre, said in a recent interview.
“We felt we had to go ahead with this. We’ve lost far too many community members in just the last year.”
The health centre is moving forward with its plan to offer the service by applying for funding from the province and applying to the federal government for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to operate the site.
Consultations were held earlier this month and the feedback from recent meetings forms part of the document required so the health centre can be considered for the federal government exemption.
Get involved for community health and safety by joining in at our next organizers meeting:
Thursday March 23, 5:30pm at the AIDS Committee of Ottawa accessible meeting space, 19 Main St. (map)
CSCS is a grassroots group of community members who are passionate about creating a healthier Ottawa. If you're interested in getting involved with our campaign to bring supervised injection to Ottawa, please join in!
Ottawa’s health unit supports prescribing heroin to treat severe addicts and at least one treatment clinic is considering it as the city fights the rising rates of overdoses from it and similar opioid drugs.
“We really see it as more an extension of our opiate substitution therapy program than part of our supervised injection efforts,” said Rob Boyd, the head of the drug-treatment programs at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre on Rideau Street. Boyd has been leading the charge to add an injection site to the centre’s existing methadone clinic.
Methadone is the standard way of treating people addicted to opioids — especially heroin but also fentanyl and oxycodone. It tickles the same receptors in the brain but you drink it rather than shooting it with a needle. With standardized dosages and pharmaceutical quality, it’s safer. But it doesn’t work for everybody.
“I’m not sure if I understand completely the chemistry behind it all, but we would look at people who are on the other opiate-treatment programs, who continue to supplement their medication with street-level opioids,” Boyd said.
About 150 people in Vancouver are in a prescription-heroin program after finding methadone and buprenorphine, a similar drug, didn’t help them. Boyd guesses the number of Ottawans who’d benefit from prescription heroin is in the low dozens.
Ottawa Public Health “supports the use of prescribed heroin and it should be incorporated — where clinically appropriate — as a harm-reduction option,” the city’s top public-health official, Dr. Isra Levy, said through a spokesman Wednesday. “Opioid substitution therapy is part of the continuum of care needed to improve health outcomes and is part of the available options to support people in Ottawa wherever they are on the spectrum of substance use.”
The $2.5 million in funding the province has promised the City of Ottawa to deal with its opioid crisis is not enough, according to some community health officials on the front lines of the fight against the potentially lethal drugs.
Ontario, and other provinces, are about 10 years behind on properly addressing the issue, according to Rob Boyd, executive director of the Oasis Program at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre.
"We've got a system that's been chronically underfunded for decades, and we are not prepared for what has come upon us," said Boyd.
Advocates for drug users gathered on Parliament Hill Tuesday afternoon to demand concrete action from the federal government in response to the fentanyl overdose crisis that's plaguing communities across the country.
The National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis was organized by the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, with rallies in eight Canadian cities including Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.
"If you can't live, you can't recover. You can't do anything in life. The first thing that we have to do is keep people alive," said Rick Sproule with the Drug Users Advocacy League in Ottawa.
Sproule, who helped organize the event, said he would like to see immediate government action to combat fatal overdoses.
"The federal government is talking about new injection sites [and] that would help very much with this overdose crisis. But they haven't done anything yet. They can talk all they want, but we're dying on a daily basis."
According to Ottawa Public Health, there were approximately 50 overdose deaths in the capital in 2015. Twenty-nine were due to opioids, and 14 of those involved fentanyl.
End the War on Drugs. In the short-term, decriminalize possession of all drugs. In the long term full legalization and regulation of drugs.
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.
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.
Remove barriers and increase access to opioid substitution therapy including access to prescription heroin.
Implement harm reduction in prisons : needle exchange programs, increasing access to opioid substitution therapy and continuation after release