Pubdate: Sun, 04 Dec 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Page: A10


Toronto has seen a 77-per-cent increase in overdose deaths between
2004 and 2014

Brooklyn McNeil was an Ontario scholar, singer, artist and harm
reduction advocate. But the 22-year-old woman was also an injection
drug addict who sadly died alone in June beside a dumpster in an
east-end alley.

It shouldn't have happened that way. McNeil was at the forefront of
the movement to bring safe injection sites to Toronto, something that
could have saved her life.

Now the city seems poised to get federal approval for the three
proposed injection sites she fought for. They are already fully
supported by the mayor, chief of police, city council, the board of
health and the majority of Torontonians.

Happily, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is already on record as
publicly supporting supervised injection sites. "I want them to be
made available because I know they save lives," she said last month.
Too bad her Ontario counterpart isn't quite as onside. When asked by
the Star's Jennifer Pagliaro whether the province would provide the
necessary funding to get the proposed sites up and running, Health
Minister Eric Hoskins remained silent.

That's unacceptable. This country is in the midst of an epidemic of
drug overdoses. Toronto alone has witnessed a 77-per-cent increase in
overdose deaths between 2004 and 2014. In 2014 alone there was a
record 258 overdose deaths. Safe injection sites can help:

They are staffed with nurses who can deliver Naloxone, which blocks or
reverses the effects of opioid medications, if someone does overdose.

They reduce the risk of infectious diseases being spread by dirty
needles. A 2012 study found that 61per cent of injection-drug users
tested positive for hepatitis C, while 5 per cent tested positive for

They help addicts access other health and social services that can
keep them off the streets and help them overcome their addictions.

Neighbourhoods habituated by addicts benefit as well. As Councillor
Joe Cressy, chair of the city's drug strategy implementation panel,
has said, supervised sites "move drug use and needles from our
streets, our parks, our backyards and our coffee shops."

Toronto has approved three sites in community health clinics already
serving people who inject drugs. They include The Works, Queen
West-Central Community Health Clinic and South Riverdale Community
Health Clinic.

But the city needs $350,000 to build cubicles and a waiting room in
each location and $1.8 million in annual operating costs from the
province to get them up and running. As Cressy points out: "The
reality, when it comes to overdoses, is an all-hands-on-deck approach
is required."

The province needs to get on board.
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