By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The provincial government will continue funding supervised injection and overdose prevention sites but changes are on the horizon as to how they will be run.
After a multi-month review of these sites, Health Minister Christine Elliott released her findings last week.
According to the review, Elliott says the current model of supervised injection sites and overdose prevention sites require updates, most specifically to address public concerns.
“There are divided opinions on the community impacts of supervised consumption services and overdose prevention sites in terms of crime increase, drug trafficking or public disorder (such as vandalism and discarded syringes) or their effects on the quality of life for local residents,” the review on the Ministry of Health Long-Term’s website states.
The terms ‘supervised consumption services and overdose prevention sites’ are being phased out by the government and replaced by “consumption and treatment services.”
Supervised consumption sites, also known as safe-injection sites, are approved by the federal government. Overdose prevention sites are approved by the province under a federal exemption of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
These models will be replaced by “consumption and treatment services.”
According to information from a ministry spokesperson, sites will be “approved in communities in the province with the greatest need.”
Both existing and new organizations will be able to apply to become consumption and treatment services sites.
“Applicants must demonstrate how their proposed service meets federal requirements, as well as additional requirements under Ontario’s Consumption and Treatment Services program,” the ministry statement reads.
The province says it anticipates that it will begin implementing its new policies in January with the expectation that all sites will be in place by April 2019.
Under the new model, each site would be required to employ an ongoing monitoring and reporting plan.
The province also plans to implement a new enforcement and audit protocol.
“There is a need for clear data reporting, monitoring, and evaluations to ensure funding is applied effectively,” Elliott’s review reads.
The government will spend approximately $30 million to fund a maximum of 21 sites per year.
There are currently no approved supervised consumption or overdose prevention sites in Oshawa.
However, support for applications of those sites was one of the 22 recommendations included in the Central East LHIN Opioid Strategy, approved by the LHIN’s board in March.
Glendene Collins, a spokesperson for the Durham Region Health Department, told The Express prior to this year’s provincial election, there were discussions regarding a possible partnership to apply for a site in Durham Region.
However, Collins says these talks halted when the Ford government took over and announced it would be reviewing the province’s policies.
At this point, the health department will be discussing the next steps with its partners.
Lakeridge Health Oshawa opened the doors of its Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic on Jan. 30, 2018.
The clinic offers same-day, nearly immediate treatment for those suffering from withdrawal or looking to get assistance with their addictions.
Opioid-related deaths and hospitalizations have spiked over the past few years across the region, province, and entire nation.
According to numbers from Statistics Canada, there were nearly 4,000 opioid-related deaths in the country in 2017, an increase of 34 per cent from the previous year.
In Ontario, the number of opioid-related deaths increased from 726 in 2016 to 1,125 in 2017.
Advocates for these sites had voiced concern about the government’s review as Premier Doug Ford stated during the election campaign that he was “dead against” safe-injection sites.
Oshawa MPP Jennifer French told the Express “it comes down to what everybody knows and that is that every life is worth saving.”
However, French worries that sites will be approved at existing locations only.
“Not giving other communities or neighbourhoods a chance, that’s a problem,” she says, adding concerns about that there will be a maximum number of sites.
“We can’t say ‘yes we support saving lives but within limits.’ That’s my concern off the top,” she says.