Pubdate: Mon, 18 Sep 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: David Rider
Page: GT1


Plans are afoot to give the Moss Park "pop-up" safe-injection tent,
established by volunteers just over a month ago as an emergency
response to overdose deaths, a permanent future in a nearby building.

And the city councillor leading Toronto's overdose crisis response
foresees similar facilities - where people can safely inject drugs
without fear of arrest - in "three or four" other neighbourhoods in
addition to the four sites Toronto will have by the end of October.

"The experience in Moss Park demonstrates that safe injection saves
lives and works," Councillor Joe Cressy said in an interview Friday.

Leigh Chapman is a registered nurse who lost a brother to a suspected
fentanyl overdose.

Chapman is one of the volunteers who helped in mid-August to set up
the Moss Park tent. They staff it between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Volunteers have administered the fentanyl antidote naloxone 26 times
to people overdosing, she said, and intervened with verbal directions
and sometimes oxygen to help many others escape a "deep nod" with
dangerously shallow breathing.

People have injected drugs about 1,000 times in one tent. Another
tent, used to "chill" or smoke drugs including crack and fentanyl, has
had between 1,500 and 1,700 visits.

Knowing cold weather is coming, and toilet facilities and electricity
would make users' lives easier, some of the volunteers met Friday with
Cressy and other city officials.

They agreed to look for a new home for the site in a nearby social
service building and to seek funding for paid staff and other expenses
from the Ontario government, which recently earmarked $222 million in
new funds over three years to help fight the growing opioid crisis.

"I can say without a doubt we have saved lives," Chapman said, adding
the spike in overdose deaths demands an urgent response in Toronto.
"We need at least three more popups. We definitely have been
approached by groups from other parts of the city wanting to know the
ins and outs of doing a pop-up and expressing their grief at the
number of overdoses that they've seen."

After the Moss Park tent went up, the city's public health department
fast-tracked the opening of its safeinjection site at the Works needle
exchange on Victoria St. near Ryerson University. Staff there report
almost 200 visitors, two of whom overdosed and were saved without
naloxone. A larger, permanent site will open there in October along
with one run by the South Riverdale Community Health Centre on Queen
St. E. and a third at the Queen West Central Toronto Community Health
Centre on Bathurst St.

Cressy said original plans for three Toronto safe-injection sites,
based on Vancouver's pioneering Insite, were predicated on an overdose
problem that has since become significantly worse, largely because of
the increasing prevalence of the highly toxic painkiller, fentanyl.

"Three years ago, when I started working on safe injection, the
question was, 'Should we do it?' " Cressy said. "Now the question is,
'Why can't we do it sooner to save lives?' That's a sea change in this
city and country."

The Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina representative wants to eventually see
safe-injection sites incorporated into existing health facilities
throughout the city. In the meantime, the city and the Toronto
Overdose Prevention Society are hearing from people in other
neighbourhoods where new safe-injection sites could soon be
established, he said.

"As we deal with an overdose crisis, I think it's fair to assume that
another three or four neighbourhoods may urgently need consideration."
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