Pubdate: Tue, 15 Aug 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Page: GT1


Move follows weekend opening of unsanctioned site in Moss Park

After an unsanctioned safe-injection site opened in a downtown park
over the weekend, Toronto Public Health has announced it will open an
interim site where people can shoot their drugs in a safe

The interim supervised injection services will be located at a site
for which (federal) exemptions have already been provided, Dr. Eileen
de Villa, the city's Medical Officer of Health, said Monday.

"We want to make sure that we're providing these interim
supervised-injection services in a manner that's safe for the clients
and of course for our staff."

She suggested the interim site could be operating in "several days"
and will not be as "sizable or substantive" as the permanent sites.

The interim site will be at Toronto Public Health's downtown office.
Future permanent sites are planned for South Riverdale Community
Health Centre and Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The
federal health minister granted exemptions for these locations from
the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, allowing them to operate legally.

Supervised injection services provide a safe and hygienic environment
for people to inject pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of
qualified staff.

The permanent sites aren't scheduled to open until the

That wasn't good enough for harm reduction workers, weary of what they
believe is government inaction in the face of an epidemic of opioid

Over the weekend, the workers set up a tent in Moss Park, between
Jarvis and Sherbourne Sts., stocked with overdose prevention kits and
staffed with a registered nurse, outreach workers and overdose
prevention trainers.

Zoe Dodd, a front-line harm-reduction worker, was back at Moss Park on
Monday afternoon while fellow volunteers helped erect two new white
tents. She applauded Toronto Public Health's announcement, but said
members of the Harm Reduction Alliance will continue to operate the
makeshift site at least until next Monday. She said the three proposed
permanent sites will not be enough. "This is a massive city. Drug use
is all over the city."

Twenty-four people used the site on Sunday and workers saved the life
of one person who overdosed in the tent, Dodd said.

"He went down very fast and if we were not here, by the time
paramedics might have arrived . . . he may not have had vital signs."

Funds for supplies are being raised in a GoFundMe campaign, that has
so far raised $11,000.

Toronto police made a decision not to arrest anyone at the site after
acting Supt. Henry Kuck met with the site's organizers, Toronto Police
spokesperson Mark Pugash said Monday. The harm-reduction workers
agreed the site would only operate between 4 and 10 p.m. and the tent
would remain fully enclosed and private, he said.

The workers also assured Kuck a registered nurse or nurse practitioner
would be inside the tent when drugs were being injected and that 911
would be called if anyone overdosed.

A police uniform presence was maintained in the general park for
regular patrols. "We have no plans to change our position, which I
think people saw over the weekend," Pugash said.
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