Today, in recognition of World AIDS Day, Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre submitted an exemption application to Health Canada to operate a supervised injection service in Toronto. South Riverdale Community Health Centre and Toronto Public Health also submitted their applications to operate supervised injection services as part of their existing harm reduction services for people who inject drugs.
“International research shows that supervised injection services reduce drug overdoses, save lives and limit the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C related to unsafe injection practices,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s Acting Medical Officer of Health. “This submission demonstrates our commitment to these essential health services and is an important collaboration between public health and our community health centres.”
Supervised injection services are health services that provide a safer and hygienic environment for people to inject pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of qualified staff.
Community consultations were held in Toronto last spring to provide information to the public about supervised injection services and to provide an opportunity for the community to share their input about benefits, concerns and strategies related to these health services.
“Torontonians are dying in increasing numbers due to overdose. These deaths are preventable,” said Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina), Chair of the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel. “Supervised injection services will save lives and improve the health of people who inject drugs.”
In July 2016, Toronto City Council approved these proposed sites, which expand on existing harm reduction services at the three locations. In addition to supervised injection, individuals using these important health services will be provided with sterile injection supplies, education on overdose prevention and intervention, health counselling services and referrals to drug treatment, housing, income support and other services. In August 2016, all three health care organizations submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to fund the implementation of this service in Toronto.
More information about Queen West – CTCHC’s harm reduction programs and service is available at http://bit.ly/2fQv41 More information about Toronto’s harm reduction programs and services is available at http://bit.ly/2fUPBmA.
On July 14, 2016 Toronto city council gave its resounding support to the opening of three supervised injection sites. Council voted 36-3 to support Board of Health recommendations to move forward with the proposed supervised injection services at Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre, South Riverdale Community Health Centre and Toronto Public Health (The Works).
On July 4th the Board of Health unanimously approved the three proposed Toronto Sites making an application to Health Canada for their approval to open three supervised injection sites. Final approval of the Board’s recommendation will be discussed at City Council on July 14th where we hope for a similar affirmation of this important service. Today’s decision was made in honour of a “youth mentor Brooklyn McNeil, a 22-year-old Thunder Bay native who after becoming addicted to opioids at a young age advocated for safe injection services as a life-saving measure.” Brooklyn died of an overdose June 22 in a Toronto alleyway. She was the last person to speak when the issue was previously before the board of health in March. She had planned to speak again today in support of SIS. This decision and supportive conversation about advancing SIS over the past few months signals a new approach to harm reduction that has yet to be implemented in Ontario, a move needed to stem preventable overdose deaths.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown held a press conference on March 14, 2016 to announce the release of a Board of Health (BOH) report that informs the Board that Toronto Public Health — The Works, Queen West – Central Toronto Community Health Centre and South Riverdale Community Health Centre are planning to add supervised injection services to their existing clinical health services for people who inject drugs. The report recommends to the BOH that Toronto Public Health participate in a coordinated community consultation with Queen West and South Riverdale on integration of supervised injection services into existing services. For more details visit the Board of Health website.
Queen West – Central Toronto Community Health Centre and Toronto Public Health through The Works program and South Riverdale Community Health Centre are planning to add a small scale nurse led integrated supervised injection service (SIS) to their existing health services to improve health outcomes for people who inject drugs. Together we will provide access to SIS for the areas of the city with the highest concentration of people who inject drugs and associated high risk behaviours (e.g. frequent injectors, incidence of overdose, public injection). In partnership we are coordinating program and policy development to ensure consistent and effective service delivery.
The Queen West and other Toronto integrated SIS will be a different model than Vancouver’s InSite. The service will be located within the agency’s existing program space with no change to the exterior of the building. The service hours will be aligned with need and other programs and services offered at the Centre, and will be staffed at all times by a nurse, a coordinator/health promotor and harm reduction workers. Most of the people who will use this service will be existing clients of our Centre.
Queen West has been delivering harm reduction services to people who inject drugs for over 20 years and is one of the busiest needle distribution programs in Toronto. In 2015, we had over 15,000 client visits and distributed almost 300,000 needles.
Overdoses in Toronto are on the rise. In 2013, 206 people died from drug overdose. A 2012 study of Queen West harm reduction clients found that 11% had overdosed (in the previous 6 months), over a third reported public injecting, 15% said that they inject in public most often, almost a third reported injecting every day, and 29% reported regularly (from one to three or more times a week), 42.5% had evidence of a current/past infection with hepatitis C and 51% did not having stable housing. Compared to the City overall, there are disproportionately high numbers of people who inject drugs within our catchment area, as well as higher rates of emergency department visits due to drug use in Toronto. Queen West clients who participated in studies told researchers and us that they wanted and would use an integrated supervised injection service.
The Ontario Association of Community Health Centres votes unanimously to support implementation of supervised injection services across Ontario. Click here to view statement of support
Former Toronto mayors urge support of supervised injection sites. More than 50 community leaders have signed a statement calling for the city to establish supervised injection services within existing community health sites. Click here to view Statement of Support and and the complete list of signatories
Please add your name to this petition to urge Toronto City Council that it’s time that we bring these life-saving services to Toronto – send a message that you support supervised injection services in our City. Share widely!
To date, consultation activities have included the following: an online survey, public events (two Town Hall meetings and four open houses), focus groups and stakeholder information sessions. The consultation was promoted through a variety of methods — including posters, emails, social media/web postings, communications initiated by Queen West, local city councillors, and direct outreach to local organizations and associations.
If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with Angela Robertson, Executive Director, or Lorraine Barnaby, Health Promoter at 416-703-8482. They would be happy to speak to with you, give you a tour or to come meet with your group.
Click on the links below for more relevant research about SIS services:
- Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment Study, 2013
- Toronto Drug Strategy
- Toronto Drug Strategy SIS Toolkit
- Ontario HIV Treatment Network
- Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Province commits to funding supervised injection sites in Toronto
- City News Report on Provincial Support of SIS in Toronto
- The Star Report on Provincial Support of SIS in Toronto
Recent News articles on supervised injection services:
- Toronto city council approves three downtown supervised injection sites
- City approves supervised injection sites at three Toronto health centres
- Toronto city councillors vote in favour of supervised injection sites
- Toronto Board of Health Approves Supervised Injection Sites
- Board of Health approves proposal for safe injection sites in downtown Toronto
- Safe injection advocate dies of overdose before Toronto approves 3 sites
- Toronto mayor, police chief onside for supervised drug injection sites
- Mayor John Tory to back supervised injection sites. Board of health asked to move ahead with plan for supervised injection after public meetings
- Please Inject Some Sanity Into Toronto’s Supervised Injection Sites
- Proposed safe injection site in Queen West Central gets positive feedback at meeting – Justin Skinner
- Speaking Notes for the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health – 2nd Charting the Future of Drug Policy in Canada Conference
- Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott orders streamlined review of antidote for opioid overdoses
- Ontario Association of Community Health Centres votes unanimously to support implementation of SIS across Ontario
- Toronto’s Queen West residents hear details about proposed Supervised Injection Site
- Toronto to hold town hall meetings about supervised injection services
- Neighbours at Queen and Bathurst ready to accept Toronto injection services
- Toronto Board of Health Endorses Supervised Injection Service Plan
- City looking at ‘next steps’ in implementing safe injection services
- Former Toronto mayors and over 50 community leaders urge support of supervised injection services
- Community leaders support call for supervised injection services
- ‘I don’t want to die’: Torontonians step up for supervised injection services
- Norman Inkster, former RCMP commissioner and former Interpol president on the importance of supervised injection services
- On supervised injection sites, Premier Kathleen Wynne says society has a responsibility to reduce harm
- Toronto’s supervised injection services offer start to reducing overdose deaths
- Safe injection sites: A brave and important service for Toronto
- CBC interview with people who use drugs
- People who use drugs welcome news of supervised injection services
- Residents react to downtown sites pegged for potential supervised injection services
- Dr. David McKeown, the city’s chief medical officer of health, hopes the province will help fund the three proposed supervised injection services
- Supervised Injection Sites in Toronto – It’s Time
- 3 Downtown sites pegged for supervised injection services
- New report makes the case for safe-injection sites in Toronto
- Three Toronto Health Centres could operate supervised injection site
- Toronto needs safe injection sites, top Health Official says
- Three Toronto Sites Identified for Supervised Injections
- Philpott expects more applications for safe injection sites
- Study bolsters case for safe injection sites
- Why Ontario still has zero safe injection sites
- Surge in overdoses prompt fears fentanyl use is rising in Ontario