On Wednesday I along with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) became aware of an intention by members of the public to launch an unofficial pop-up supervised injection site in Ottawa. To date, the City or Ottawa and Public Health have not been involved in this initiative.
As many of you may have learned through the media or in my past weekly newsletter updates, supervised injection services (SIS), such as that proposed by the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre ( a legal supervised injection site set to open in October) must apply to the Federal Government for and receive an exemption from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) in order to operate. The group that is taking on the pop-up SIS initiative have no formal legal construct, nor have they initiated any application to the federal government for an exemption.
There is limited information available with respect to the current initiative to open a “pop-up” overdose prevention site. However, from what information we do know this concept appears to be consistent with peer overdose prevention programs, including OPH’s own Peer Overdose Prevention Program (POPP), which has been operating since 2012 and which trains peers (people who inject opioids) to intervene during an overdose by administering naloxone.
Since early 2017 OPH has intensified work, with various community partners, in preparing for and responding to opioid overdoses – working to enhance naloxone access, distribution and training; and disseminating information on overdose awareness and prevention.
OPH works with over 20 community agencies to provide harm reduction services in Ottawa and is actively working with municipal and community agencies to address the opioid crisis in our community, which includes increasing overdose peer support in the community and ensuring naloxone is readily available to prevent overdoses. Peers play an important part in preventing overdoses. And OPH stands ready to work with partners who have a common goal of saving lives from potential overdoses.
As Chair of the Board of Health it is my responsibility to review various programming and opportunities that support OPH’s mandate of the prevention of disease, injury, death and disability. Based on recent studies and the data that has come forward the ultimate goal here is to look at providing both a safe and clean environment and offer the connection to programs of rehabilitation in which to help those struggling.
Going forward SIS can help serve as a bridge to lead to other important health and social services, including counselling, health teaching, medical treatment, referrals to drug treatment, housing and income support. Working closely with OPH I am open to discussion with groups whose goal is to save lives and assist people from overdose and getting help, but it is important to follow the framework to open a legal injection site. There is a process for the federal approval of supervised consumption sites that in the end must be followed.