Ontario health minister supports Ottawa injection site, says provincial funding available

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins supports the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s request for a supervised injection site and says there will be provincial money available to help set it up.

Hoskins sent a letter Monday to federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, saying the Sandy Hill health centre’s proposal “appears logical and supported by evidence.”

“Given the importance of this issue, we are also developing a provincial framework in order to respond to the safe injection site proposals from Toronto and Ottawa, as well as other municipalities or other applicants that may request similar programs for their cities in the future and will provide full details within the next few weeks,” Hoskins said in a written statement released by his office.

That’s a big boost for the Sandy Hill health centre, which wants to open an injection site at its Nelson Street facility. The health centre needs a federal exemption to allow drugs at the site and plans to submit an application this month, if its board approves the initiative on Jan. 18.

The province isn’t saying yet how much money it would provide safe injection sites.

The Sandy Hill health centre says it wants $1.4 million annually from the province to run the injection site.

David Gibson, executive director of the health centre, said he’s pleased with Hoskins’s response to the centre’s application.

In his letter to Philpott, Hoskins says, “More can be done to tackle the opioid issue at the community level,” and he notes the work the Sandy Hill health centre is doing in Ottawa.

“The Sandy Hill CHC’s proposal to add (a supervised injection site) to its services will complement its current continuum of harm reduction programs,” Hoskins says in his letter.

While the Sandy Hill health centre is close to sending an application to the federal government for a supervised injection site, other health agencies in Ottawa have also indicated they are interested in opening similar injection programs.

The City of Ottawa is letting its public health board speak for the municipality on the issue of supervised injection sites. The health board voted last year to support efforts to establish injection sites in Ottawa.

The issue is unlikely to be up for debate at council, at least in the short term, since the city is deferring to the authority of Ottawa Public Health.

Mayor Jim Watson has been skeptical of launching supervised injection sites in Ottawa, but supporters of the facilities say they would reduce overdose deaths and virus transmissions.

The City of Toronto on Monday also received good news from Hoskins, who threw his support behind a separate plan to open three supervised injection sites in that city.

By Jon Willing
Source: Ottawa Citizen