Overdose Prevention Sites: Open Letter Release and Rally Today

Today healthcare providers and allies will be delivering an open letter and holding a rally to condemn the Ford government’s decision to prevent the opening of three approved overdose prevention sites and preventing the approval of new ones.

The letter has been signed so far by 800+ health care providers including harm reduction workers, nurses, physicians, social workers, pharmacists, occupational therapists, and more.

The rally today is at 12:30pm outside the Globe and Mail Centre, 351 King Street East, where an invite-only “Opioid Symposium” is being convened. All are welcome to attend!

See below for the open letter and press release:

OPS Open Letter

Ontario Health Care Providers Stand Behind Overdose Prevention Sites

September 5, 2018

TORONTO – Ontario health care providers are standing behind people who use drugs and front-line harm reduction workers to condemn the Ford government’s recent decision to stop three previously-approved overdose prevention sites (OPS) from opening while also denying approval of any new sites. This decision, announced August 13th, 2018 by Health Minister Christine Elliott, comes amidst a growing crisis of opioid overdose deaths, which prematurely took the lives of 1,263 people in Ontario in 2017, and many more in 2018.

Over ​850​ Ontario health care providers have now signed an open ​letter​ calling on the provincial government to expand funding for OPS and Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) in consultation with groups like the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, who opened the Moss Park OPS and Parkdale OPS in Toronto. The Moss Park OPS saw over 9,000 visits and managed 251 overdoses in its first year. Data from OPS across the province is echoing what extensive research evidence and experience has already shown: supervised drug use services save lives, reduce infections, connect people to treatment, and keep communities safe.

“Ontario’s health care providers will not idly stand by as decisions are made that put people’s lives at risk. The evidence exists. We need action,” said Melanie Spence, a registered nurse who works at a Supervised Consumption Service in Toronto.

“The Toronto Overdose Prevention Society and Parkdale residents have had to respond to this crisis by taking matters into their own hands and opening a pop-up OPS without any funding or provincial support. This OPS should be allowed to open in the Parkdale Community Health Centre. The high overdose rates in Parkdale show just how necessary an OPS is for this area,” said​ Gillian Kolla, from the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

The letter calls on the government to immediately:

  • Allow the three already approved overdose prevention sites to open
  • Approve applications for new overdose prevention sites
  • Expand and continue funding for overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites in collaboration with Health Canada
  • Engage in meaningful consultations with people who use drugs, front-line workers, and healthcare providers on a comprehensive strategy to combat the current opioid overdose crisis

Media Contacts:

Melanie Spence
(416) 726-1840 mel.spence@gmail.com

Gillian Ko​lla, gilliankolla@gmail.com

Further information:

Website with open letter and full list of signatories:

ontarioopioidemergency.wordpress.com

Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, Press Release, August 15th, 2018:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EJcOPA9yXdwic3W4ApWUqUddeqxYyvnX/view

 

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