Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jan 2018
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The London Free Press
Author: Jonathan Sher
Page: A2


Three weeks after Ontario said it would fast-track creation of
temporary safer drug-injection sites, the province has finally cleared
away the bureaucratic red tape - a move that will soon lead to a site
or sites in London.

The red tape - the Ontario government had promised a 14-day turnaround
- - was the last barrier to health units across Ontario to creating
safer places to lessen the death toll of opioids. The Middlesex-London
Health Unit used the last three weeks to have its application ready to

"This is a very exciting moment," said Dr. Chris Mackie, medical
officer of health with the health unit.

"We have lost over 400 lives to addiction in the past decade. This
opens the door to crucial, life-saving services. It's a small but
vital part that will help in solving London's addiction crisis puzzle
that is well complemented by other developments, such as the launch of
the Nurse-Family Partnership, the Health Unit's HIV Outreach Program,
and the recent announcement of more funding for addictions treatment."

The move comes after police in London twice seized street drugs laced
with the painkiller fentanyl, which can be as much as 100 times more
potent than morphine. Even a few grains can be deadly.

After a rash of opioid deaths, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins
asked the federal government to allow the province to open the
temporary overdose prevention sites.

"Every life lost to this opioid crisis is an avoidable tragedy and our
government is committed to doing everything in our power to combat
this public health crisis," Hoskins said Thursday.

"Overdose-preventionsiteshaveproven to save lives by offering
necessary health services to some of the most vulnerable and
marginalized populations."

The pop-up locations aren't meant to be long-term sites. They are
being planned by many cities across Ontario, including London.

Though referrals to addiction treatment will be available, the pop-up
locations put less focus on wrap-around supports, brochures,
counselling and connecting addicts with outside resources.

London is still moving ahead with plans for a permanent supervised
drug consumption site, a highly regulated - and often contentious -
process many months in the making.

The proposal has raised concerns from businesses in downtown and in
Old East Village, two areas highlighted as potential locations.

Though it's a separate project, Mackie said the team getting the
pop-up facility off the ground will draw on some of the facts and
public feedback uncovered through the safe-injection site process.

Mackie said some of the same areas where a permanent supervised
consumption sitemight go - downtown, Old East Village, SoHo and
Hamilton Road - are also potential locations for a temporary
overdose-prevention site.

In Southwestern Ontario, opioids used on the street triggered rare
public-health and police warnings this summer, including in London and
Sarnia, where a rash of three drug overdoses in mere hours left one
person dead. Cocaine contaminated with fentanyl was suspected.

Even the volume of legally prescribed opioids has raised eyebrows,
with a recent report suggesting some areas of Southwestern Ontario -
Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent, Elgin County and Windsor-Essex - run
some of the province's highest rates of opioid drug

In November, London police issued a public warning after potentially
deadly carfentanil - a synthetic opioid 10,000 times more powerful
than morphine - was found in seized drugs. Fentanyl and carfentanil
can be mixed into other drugs, such as heroin and crystal meth,
unbeknownst to those using them.
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