Toronto harm reduction workers open pop-up overdose prevention site

Community Aug 14, 2017 by Joanna Lavoie City Centre Mirror

Members of a harm reduction coalition of volunteers from across the GTA were done seeing those they know and love die on the street from IV drug overdoses.

Late Saturday afternoon, members and supporters of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA) took matters into their own hands and set up an unsanctioned pop-up overdose prevention site (OPS) at the south end of Moss Park.

That first day, 15 people who use drugs stopped by the program. About 100 naloxone (a medication used to block the effects of opioids) kits were also handed out.

Yesterday, two dozen people came out to safely inject. One person overdosed and was administered naloxone.

So far, Toronto police are keeping a close eye on things, but are allowing the unapproved, unregulated program to stay open.

Harm reduction worker Zoe Dodd said over the last nine months, the THRA has taken part in and held numerous meetings on the pressing need to provide people who use drugs in Toronto with safe places to inject.

On Aug. 10, about a dozen harm reduction workers attended a closed-door meeting with Toronto Mayor John Tory to once again discuss the city’s growing opioid crisis.

Dodd was at that meeting and said her team was frustrated that no concrete, timely plans were put in place to address the problem.

“We felt deflated. We felt there was a lack of action,” she said, discussing what prompted the group to make this unorthodox move.

“We just thought the time is now. We’ve got to just do it.”

Dodd said the Alliance chose to open its first temporary OPS at Moss Park as lots of users live in the area and could use more support.

A Go Fund Me campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/torontooverdosepreventionsociety) has also been set up to help fund the harm reduction efforts.

She said some of the $8,000 already raised may be used to open a second temporary overdose prevention site.

“It would be nice to have five or six. We need them all over the city,” said Dodd, who is the Hepatitis C co-ordinator at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) in Leslieville.

“It’s a really vital and important service.”

Nick Boyce, who works in harm reduction and drug policy, has given of his time and expertise to help run the pop-up OPS since it opened.

Like many, he said something must be done now.

“Something should have been done yesterday. We’ve been calling on this for a long time,” Boyce said.

“Governments may have made commitments, but in reality (money) isn’t flowing as quickly as it should.”

He said the interim safe injection site serves two important purposes: to help people who use drugs have a safe place to go, and to raise awareness about the issue.

“Drug use is a health and social issue,” said Boyce, who has travelled to Portugal to learn more about the outcome of that country’s decision to decriminalize all drugs 15 years ago.

He said Portugal, which has a population of roughly 10 million, is now seeing about 35 overdose deaths annually, while here in Ontario, which has about 13 million people, we’re on target to see upwards of 1,000 people die from drug overdoses in 2017. 

He said politicians like Canada’s Health Minister Jane Philpott need to be brave and push to decriminalize drugs.

“We’re at a tipping point. We need a different approach,” he said.

“The pop-up isn’t a permanent solution but it might just make sense.”

Nancy Leff dropped by the site Sunday evening to volunteer.

A harm reduction peer support worker at St. Stephen’s Community House in Kensington Market, Leff said she wanted to give of her time to the program because too many people are dying unnecessarily.

“I feel the government’s not concerned. They don’t care,” she said, adding there seems to be a mentality that those on the fringes are somehow expendable.

“Everybody has pasts and hopefully everyone can make it through to the other side with help and support.”

Leff, who said she lost two acquaintances this past week to drug overdoses, said it’s essential to build the three approved supervised injection sites (SIS) in Toronto be expedited.

Recently, Toronto announced that is working to push up the opening dates for SIS sites at The SRCHC on Queen Street East, near Carlaw Avenue; the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (PQWCHC) — Queen West site on Bathurst Street; and at The Works at Toronto Public Health’s building on Victoria Street, near Yonge-Dundas Square. Initially, these sites weren’t scheduled to open until later on this year.

The city has also started equipping more of its front-line workers and first responders with naloxone kits.

Toronto harm reduction workers open pop-up overdose prevention site

Unsanctioned program opens in response to city's growing opioid crisis

Community Aug 14, 2017 by Joanna Lavoie City Centre Mirror

Members of a harm reduction coalition of volunteers from across the GTA were done seeing those they know and love die on the street from IV drug overdoses.

Late Saturday afternoon, members and supporters of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA) took matters into their own hands and set up an unsanctioned pop-up overdose prevention site (OPS) at the south end of Moss Park.

That first day, 15 people who use drugs stopped by the program. About 100 naloxone (a medication used to block the effects of opioids) kits were also handed out.

Yesterday, two dozen people came out to safely inject. One person overdosed and was administered naloxone.

So far, Toronto police are keeping a close eye on things, but are allowing the unapproved, unregulated program to stay open.

Harm reduction worker Zoe Dodd said over the last nine months, the THRA has taken part in and held numerous meetings on the pressing need to provide people who use drugs in Toronto with safe places to inject.

On Aug. 10, about a dozen harm reduction workers attended a closed-door meeting with Toronto Mayor John Tory to once again discuss the city’s growing opioid crisis.

Dodd was at that meeting and said her team was frustrated that no concrete, timely plans were put in place to address the problem.

“We felt deflated. We felt there was a lack of action,” she said, discussing what prompted the group to make this unorthodox move.

“We just thought the time is now. We’ve got to just do it.”

Dodd said the Alliance chose to open its first temporary OPS at Moss Park as lots of users live in the area and could use more support.

A Go Fund Me campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/torontooverdosepreventionsociety) has also been set up to help fund the harm reduction efforts.

She said some of the $8,000 already raised may be used to open a second temporary overdose prevention site.

“It would be nice to have five or six. We need them all over the city,” said Dodd, who is the Hepatitis C co-ordinator at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) in Leslieville.

“It’s a really vital and important service.”

Nick Boyce, who works in harm reduction and drug policy, has given of his time and expertise to help run the pop-up OPS since it opened.

Like many, he said something must be done now.

“Something should have been done yesterday. We’ve been calling on this for a long time,” Boyce said.

“Governments may have made commitments, but in reality (money) isn’t flowing as quickly as it should.”

He said the interim safe injection site serves two important purposes: to help people who use drugs have a safe place to go, and to raise awareness about the issue.

“Drug use is a health and social issue,” said Boyce, who has travelled to Portugal to learn more about the outcome of that country’s decision to decriminalize all drugs 15 years ago.

He said Portugal, which has a population of roughly 10 million, is now seeing about 35 overdose deaths annually, while here in Ontario, which has about 13 million people, we’re on target to see upwards of 1,000 people die from drug overdoses in 2017. 

He said politicians like Canada’s Health Minister Jane Philpott need to be brave and push to decriminalize drugs.

“We’re at a tipping point. We need a different approach,” he said.

“The pop-up isn’t a permanent solution but it might just make sense.”

Nancy Leff dropped by the site Sunday evening to volunteer.

A harm reduction peer support worker at St. Stephen’s Community House in Kensington Market, Leff said she wanted to give of her time to the program because too many people are dying unnecessarily.

“I feel the government’s not concerned. They don’t care,” she said, adding there seems to be a mentality that those on the fringes are somehow expendable.

“Everybody has pasts and hopefully everyone can make it through to the other side with help and support.”

Leff, who said she lost two acquaintances this past week to drug overdoses, said it’s essential to build the three approved supervised injection sites (SIS) in Toronto be expedited.

Recently, Toronto announced that is working to push up the opening dates for SIS sites at The SRCHC on Queen Street East, near Carlaw Avenue; the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (PQWCHC) — Queen West site on Bathurst Street; and at The Works at Toronto Public Health’s building on Victoria Street, near Yonge-Dundas Square. Initially, these sites weren’t scheduled to open until later on this year.

The city has also started equipping more of its front-line workers and first responders with naloxone kits.

Toronto harm reduction workers open pop-up overdose prevention site

Unsanctioned program opens in response to city's growing opioid crisis

Community Aug 14, 2017 by Joanna Lavoie City Centre Mirror

Members of a harm reduction coalition of volunteers from across the GTA were done seeing those they know and love die on the street from IV drug overdoses.

Late Saturday afternoon, members and supporters of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA) took matters into their own hands and set up an unsanctioned pop-up overdose prevention site (OPS) at the south end of Moss Park.

That first day, 15 people who use drugs stopped by the program. About 100 naloxone (a medication used to block the effects of opioids) kits were also handed out.

Yesterday, two dozen people came out to safely inject. One person overdosed and was administered naloxone.

So far, Toronto police are keeping a close eye on things, but are allowing the unapproved, unregulated program to stay open.

Harm reduction worker Zoe Dodd said over the last nine months, the THRA has taken part in and held numerous meetings on the pressing need to provide people who use drugs in Toronto with safe places to inject.

On Aug. 10, about a dozen harm reduction workers attended a closed-door meeting with Toronto Mayor John Tory to once again discuss the city’s growing opioid crisis.

Dodd was at that meeting and said her team was frustrated that no concrete, timely plans were put in place to address the problem.

“We felt deflated. We felt there was a lack of action,” she said, discussing what prompted the group to make this unorthodox move.

“We just thought the time is now. We’ve got to just do it.”

Dodd said the Alliance chose to open its first temporary OPS at Moss Park as lots of users live in the area and could use more support.

A Go Fund Me campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/torontooverdosepreventionsociety) has also been set up to help fund the harm reduction efforts.

She said some of the $8,000 already raised may be used to open a second temporary overdose prevention site.

“It would be nice to have five or six. We need them all over the city,” said Dodd, who is the Hepatitis C co-ordinator at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) in Leslieville.

“It’s a really vital and important service.”

Nick Boyce, who works in harm reduction and drug policy, has given of his time and expertise to help run the pop-up OPS since it opened.

Like many, he said something must be done now.

“Something should have been done yesterday. We’ve been calling on this for a long time,” Boyce said.

“Governments may have made commitments, but in reality (money) isn’t flowing as quickly as it should.”

He said the interim safe injection site serves two important purposes: to help people who use drugs have a safe place to go, and to raise awareness about the issue.

“Drug use is a health and social issue,” said Boyce, who has travelled to Portugal to learn more about the outcome of that country’s decision to decriminalize all drugs 15 years ago.

He said Portugal, which has a population of roughly 10 million, is now seeing about 35 overdose deaths annually, while here in Ontario, which has about 13 million people, we’re on target to see upwards of 1,000 people die from drug overdoses in 2017. 

He said politicians like Canada’s Health Minister Jane Philpott need to be brave and push to decriminalize drugs.

“We’re at a tipping point. We need a different approach,” he said.

“The pop-up isn’t a permanent solution but it might just make sense.”

Nancy Leff dropped by the site Sunday evening to volunteer.

A harm reduction peer support worker at St. Stephen’s Community House in Kensington Market, Leff said she wanted to give of her time to the program because too many people are dying unnecessarily.

“I feel the government’s not concerned. They don’t care,” she said, adding there seems to be a mentality that those on the fringes are somehow expendable.

“Everybody has pasts and hopefully everyone can make it through to the other side with help and support.”

Leff, who said she lost two acquaintances this past week to drug overdoses, said it’s essential to build the three approved supervised injection sites (SIS) in Toronto be expedited.

Recently, Toronto announced that is working to push up the opening dates for SIS sites at The SRCHC on Queen Street East, near Carlaw Avenue; the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (PQWCHC) — Queen West site on Bathurst Street; and at The Works at Toronto Public Health’s building on Victoria Street, near Yonge-Dundas Square. Initially, these sites weren’t scheduled to open until later on this year.

The city has also started equipping more of its front-line workers and first responders with naloxone kits.