Ottawa's supervised-injection site 'going to happen' after nod in Ontario budget

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.

There are at least two other organizations hoping to open supervised-injection sites in Ottawa, but their applications are not as far advanced as Sandy Hill’s. 

Even Mayor Jim Watson, who does not personally endorse the sites, said he was pleased the funding was included in the budget.

“I’m pleased that dollars will come to support this because we just did not have the money without cutting other programs,” he told reporters, while reacting to several budget announcements with municipal implications.

“So if we’re going to have a supervised-injection site, and the province wanted us to have one as did the federal government, then it’s right that they are providing the funding to operate that particular site.”

In supporting Sandy Hill’s bid, Minister Hoskins also sent a letter to federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, saying the health centre’s proposal “appears logical and supported by evidence.” The health centre needs a federal exemption to allow normally illegal drugs at the site.

Boyd said he’s confident the federal approval is forthcoming.

By Kelly Egan
Source: Ottawa Citizen