Pubdate: Wed, 28 Feb 2018
Source: Standard, The (St. Catharines, CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 St. Catharines Standard
Author: Karena Walter
Page: A3


St. Catharines council is unanimously supporting the creation of a
temporary supervised injection site in the city to help deal with the
opioid crisis.

"It is pure harm reduction. It is stopping people from dying," said
Sandi Tantardini of Niagara Area Moms Ending Stigma, speaking in
support of the site at Monday night's council meeting.

Tantardini and Jennifer Johnston founded the group of moms, families
and friends of people who have been lost to or are struggling with

"When we're talking about the effects of the opioid crisis, our group
and its representatives and our families, we're the faces of it," said
Johnston, whose son Jonathan, a chef who trained at Niagara College,
died of a fentanyl overdose in Toronto.

Niagara Emergency Medical Services responded to 520 suspected opioid
overdoses in 2017 - a 335 per cent increase from 2016's 155 cases.

The province created a program to establish supervised injection sites
in municipalities on a time-limed basis that are funded by the
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The federal government is
allowing exemptions under the law for the use of illegal drugs at the
sites. The sites will have personnel on hand and naloxone, which is
used to treat patients suffering from overdoses, along with other supports.

Council voted Monday to back an application for a temporary site by
the Opioid Prevention and Education Network of Niagara and Positive
Living Niagara. Positive Living runs needle exchange and
harm-reduction programs and has offered to provide the temporary site
on Queenston Street. Executive director Glen Walker said it can adapt
the space, which already has an existing trust and rapport with clients.

Walker said they'd be able to supervise people injecting, provide
naloxone for those who have overdosed and supply harm reduction
equipment. They'll develop relationships with people who come in and
try to connect them with treatment and counselling.

The idea would be to use the temporary site for three to six months to
get a sense of the uptake and need in the community.

"We are going to be offering, not only the ability to supervise
somebody who might be injecting alone, but at the same time offering
other services and supports to them."

Dr. Andrew Feller, Niagara's associate medical officer of health, said
it's critical to remember that numbers being talked about are people.
She said the opioid crisis is occurring all across the region and
affects all socio-economic strata and all ages.

"There's no magic answer to this, no one thing is going to fix this
issue," she said. "But a supervised consumption facility could be part
of the overall solution."
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