Lowertown's new supervised injection site sees 'overwhelming' demand

Organizers at Ottawa's new supervised injection trailer are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of people coming to the site each day, and they expect those numbers will increase during the winter.

The trailer, which is run by Ottawa Inner City Health, officially opened its doors on Nov. 7. On an average day the trailer sees 122 people, but on the busiest day those numbers climbed to 139 people.  

"It's hectic, it's non-stop," said Louise Beaudoin, the trailer's nurse co-ordinator for the trailer. 

"We're always overwhelmed, but that's the nature of the beast."

Wendy Muckle, the executive director for Ottawa Inner City Health, said they didn't expect so many people to use the services.

"I think we really underestimated the number of people who had converted to injecting drugs in this neighbourhood," said Muckle.

"I think the reality is nobody really knows how many people in Ottawa are injecting drugs. So it's a bit of a surprise in terms of finding out how many are in this community."

The trailer is the newest legal supervised injection site in the city, and opened just around the corner from the unsanctioned supervised injection site in Raphael Brunet Park, which has since closed down.

Muckle said many of the clients that used the unsanctioned injection site have since started using the trailer. 

Ottawa Inner City Health officially opened the trailer, located in a parking lot of the Shepherds of Good Hope, after passing a Health Canada inspection.

The Lowertown trailer is the only injection site in the city open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is equipped with eight curtained stalls, clean needles and naloxone kits.

Since the trailer opened, Muckle said she has seen a decrease in the number of overdoses that require naloxone to be administered.  

In the 24 hours before the trailer opened, there were 10 overdoses at the Shepherds of Good Hope that required naloxone, she added. 

Muckle said she isn't"seeing people hanging around outside on the sidewalk injecting themselves like they were before". 

"We've certainly seen a big impact since the trailer opened," said Muckle. "People are often monitored for half an hour in the trailer to make sure they don't overdose."

As the colder weather approaches, organizers think they will see more people coming to the trailer. Muckle said they already have to ask people to wait in line. 

"We will have to move people through much faster, which is unfortunate, but we will have to do this to accommodate everybody," she said, adding she is concerned a longer wait in the winter months means people might start injecting in the street again. 

Ottawa Inner City Health has partnered with Ottawa Public Health to alleviate some of the pressure, though. When the trailer is at capacity, clients are sent to the city-run supervised injection site on Clarence Street, which is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Muckle said they will also let people wait inside the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter when the weather gets colder. 

Source: CBC News