Ottawa supervised injection trailer squeezed by extreme cold and fire damage

The supervised injection service that operates in a trailer next to the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter is struggling to meet client demand due to the extreme cold and a loss of space because of recent fire damage at the shelter.

The 40-foot construction trailer with fogged up windows and a narrow entrance is the only supervised injection site in Ottawa that operates overnight.

It has far exceeded the expected flow of 50 clients a day, according to Anne Marie Hopkins, supervisor of the peer outreach program at Ottawa Inner City Health, which operates the supervised-injection service.

"With three staff working and even with a handful of clients, it's tight in there," Hopkins said. "We're putting through 150 [to] 170 people a day in that small trailer so we have to move people along, but it's really hard when it's so cold out. They're freezing."

Provincial funding to help Somerset West health centre open injection site in new year

The Somerset West Community Health Centre now has everything it needs to open a supervised drug-injection site in the new year, with money from the provincial government to prepare the space and pay staff to operate it.

Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi and Ottawa South’s John Fraser went to the centre on Eccles Street on Friday afternoon and promised $220,000 immediately to pay for renovations to a room on the first floor. Somerset West will get an additional $1 million a year to run the injection site, which is to have six spots for drug users to inject and a room next door for them to stay in afterward to make sure they haven’t overdosed.

Somerset West executive director Naini Cloutier was coy about exactly when her site might open. The date depends on how quickly the centre can get final plans done, a building permit approved, contractors to do the job and staff chosen to run it, but the target is the end of January. They’ll have to knock down a wall, modify the ventilation system and plumb for foot-wash stations, she said (some users seek veins in their feet).

“We did not expect that we would move so fast and we have, so I’m quite optimistic that we’ll be able to open in the next few months,” she said. “We’re working as hard as we can.”

Ontario sees 68 percent spike in opioid overdose deaths this year

Ontario saw a 68 percent spike in opioid-related deaths this year, the provincial health minister and coroner announced on Thursday.

The government data shows that 336 opioid overdose deaths occurred in the nation’s most populous province from May to July of this year, a significant jump from 201 deaths during the same time last year.

Opioid-related emergency room visits have also soared 29 percent over the last year, the province said, with more than 2,449 such visits occurring from July to September, compared to 1,896 during the prior three months.

“New data shows the urgent need for action,” the government said in a news release, adding that more fire and police services will be equipped with naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins also said he “formally requested” that the federal government allow Ontario to approve and fund overdose prevention sites, although it was unclear if those sites would just be for injection services or include safe spaces for smoking drugs.

Somerset West to be first supervised injection site outside of downtown core

Somerset West Community Health Centre has received permission to open what will become the city’s first supervised injection site outside of the downtown core.

The centre, located on Eccles Street in Chinatown, said Monday that Health Canada has granted it an exemption from federal drug laws that will allow the site to legally open, although renovation work still has to be done. No opening date has been set.

The news comes as overdose deaths in the area are spiking. There have been four fatal overdoses in the past two weeks among people connected with services provided in the Somerset ward, said executive director Naini Cloutier. In 2015, there were 48 unintentional drug overdose deaths across the city.

“We are glad that things are moving fast. The opioid crisis is something that is impacting the whole community,” said Cloutier. “We hope to save lives and reduce risk factors.”

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.

Make supervised injection widely available: outgoing top doc

All health-care providers should be allowed to supervise drug injections given the extent of opioid abuse, according to Ottawa's outgoing medical officer of health.

As Dr. Isra Levy prepares to leave for a new job at Canadian Blood Services in January 2018, he says the opioid crisis is of such magnitude that even several supervised injection sites in the city will not be enough.

"My own belief is that every physician and every health-care provider should be enabled to be a provider of that service," said Levy on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "We know that opioids are being used throughout the community, in the suburbs and the core."

Levy was an early advocate of supervised injection sites, calling on the city to support them in spring 2016. That put him at odds with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who argued the money would be better spent on treating those with addictions, and with the city's chief of police, who expressed concerns about public safety around such sites.

OPO's Lowertown pop-up safe injection site breaks camp

The wind and rain threatened to bring down the pop-up supervised injection site slightly ahead of schedule.

The tents and canopy held up, though, until volunteers with Overdose Prevention Ottawa (OPO) formally closed down the site at Lowertown’s Raphael Brunet Park at about 9 p.m. Thursday.

Deteriorating weather and the opening of a sanctioned trailer site nearby, behind the Shepherds of Good Hope, convinced the operators of OPO to close down after nearly 80 days of operation. OPO says it received more than 3,500 visits between Aug. 25 and Nov. 9.

Volunteers, some of whom will be moving to a sanctioned site, experienced mixed feelings on the final night, even as the rain threatened to turn to wet flurries and staff admitted exhaustion.

“Huge emotions. Huge emotions,” said site supervisor Melanie Stafford. “It’s a tremendous loss for everyone involved. OPO is transitioning because there is a need for advocacy, and for a variety of things throughout the city, but the end of this type of service delivery is a huge loss.”

OPO transitioning to the second phase of advocacy and service delivery

This blog post originally appeared on the Overdose Prevention Ottawa website.

It is with heavy hearts that Overdose Prevention Ottawa share that we are closing the service we have provided on the patch of grass located at 307 St. Patrick Street since August 25, 2017. In over two months, we have had 3445 visits, reversed five overdoses with naloxone, and prevented hundreds more through various interventions, including enhanced monitoring, providing a safe space for people to consume drugs, to be able to take their time, and experience connection and belonging within the community.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa provided the first public safe space in our city for people to use drugs, primarily through injection and inhalation. At that time, there were no harm reduction services that provided a space for people to safely consume drugs. We have built relationships of trust with people, the building blocks of healing deep wounds. Every day, our guests tell us that they and their friends are alive because of our services.

In just over two months, we have accomplished much to make our city safer for people who use drugs, to combat stigma and criminalization, and fix some of the many gaps in the healthcare system. For 74 days, we have operated without any support from any level of government. It is only through the tireless efforts of our more than 200 volunteers, and through the donations of thousands of private supporters were we able to stand up where our government had failed so many. It is shameful that so many individuals have had to sacrifice so much to fix that failing. But it is also truly inspiring to see the love, the compassion, and unwavering support of our neighbours in the face of this emergency. We have created a powerful community of advocates and we will continue to use that strength to both demand and actively build a better city for everyone.

Mayor hopes winter freezes pop-up injection site out of Lowertown

The pop-up supervised injection tent run by activist volunteers in Lowertown has saved lives, Mayor Jim Watson says, but he’s still refused an offer from the provincial government to help keep them and their clients warm.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa’s tent in Raphael Brunet Park on St. Patrick Street is modelled on ones in Vancouver, where the climate is warmer, and Toronto, where it isn’t.

Toronto’s pop-up site has been using a light tent, the kind you could buy at Costco for a couple of hundred dollars. It was fine in September, not so good in the cold and wet of deepening autumn.

Now it’s been replaced by a military-style shelter meant to be deployed as part of a field hospital after a disaster or in an epidemic. It’s a gift from the provincial government, after Mayor John Tory asked for it.

Members of the provincial government’s Emergency Medical Assistance Team, on the instructions of Health Minister Eric Hoskins, went to set it up and teach the Toronto volunteers how to work the tent and its systems themselves.

“Mayor Watson is not focused on events unfolding in Toronto,” Watson’s spokeswoman Livia Belcea said by email Friday. “(T)he mayor is focused on the funding needs of the three local agencies that are working with the province and the government of Canada to set up sanctioned supervised injection sites.”

Watson — this is new — asked federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor to hurry and approve a supervised injection service at Ottawa Inner City Health, operating out of the Shepherds of Good Hope on king Edward Avenue. In a letter he sent Thursday, he implicitly praised Overdose Prevention Ottawa’s work.

“OPO’s actions are in response to a significant rise in overdoses occurring in the neighbourhood; the site as clearly demonstrated a need for (a supervised injection site) in the area, and many lives have been saved by overdose reversals,” the mayor wrote.

That’s a major turnaround for someone who’s opposed supervised injection sites from the moment the notion arose here.

Safe injection site set to open Monday at Shepherds of Good Hope

Ottawa’s first 24/7 supervised injection site will open in a Lowertown trailer Monday evening.

The trailer, operated by Shepherds of Good Hope and Ottawa Inner City Health, will include eight injection bays and a lounge area. It is expected to serve between 100 and 150 drug users a day.

It will become the third supervised injection site in the city at a time of growing concern about opioid overdoses.

Ottawa Public Health opened a small two-bay location on Clarence Street in the ByWard Market in September. In August, a group of volunteers opened an unsanctioned tent in a Lowertown park. Meanwhile, renovation work has proceeded slowly on a supervised injection site at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre. It was originally supposed to have opened in October, but that date has now been pushed back.


Subscribe to CSCS Ottawa RSS