Ontario to keep overdoseprevention sites

Safe injection sites across Ontario received some positive news Monday after the provincial government announced they will be allowed to continue operating under a new model. The progressive conservative government says injection sites must provide a safe place to take drugs, but they also must be a gateway to other services. At least 15 people have died of opioid overdoes in the last 10 weeks in the Niagara Region since the provincial government paused the opening of a safe injection site in St. Catharines.There are 18 sites currently operating, including one in Hamilton. They can continue their work but will all have to reapply to the government. There were also three preapproved sites that were stopped before they even opened including a St. Catharines location. Those three sites will also have to reapply, but can now open while they wait for the process to be completed. The 18 operating sites plus the three that were paused, make for 21 sites – the number the government is capping off at. Health Minister Christine Elliott calls it “consumption and treatment services”. After a month and a half of consultation and review, she says the province has decided the sites must also help connect patients to other services like mental health, addiction and housing programming. While they haven’t been able to open during the government’s review process, Glen Walker from Positive Living Niagara says they have still been handing out clean needles and naloxone kits. Walker says on average 5,000 needles are handed out every night with their ‘Streetworks’ van. He says it’s an example of how dire the situation is in Niagara. Five other communities have applied for a safe injection clinic including Guelph. Although it’s not confirmed, it’s believed Guelph will not be included in the 21 sites. Elliott says the cost of operating the injection clinics will be $31 million.