The province announced on Tuesday that a temporary overdose prevention site has been approved for the city of Hamilton.
The temporary site, organized by the Shelter Health Network in partnership with Hamilton Urban Core CHC will be located along Rebecca St. This is the first supervised injection site in Hamilton.
The approval has been met with one-time provincial funding of up to $116,300 for the 2018-19 funding year. The Rebecca St. facility will also include an area for three people at a time to inject “pre-obtained” drugs under the watch of a medical professional. It will also include a space where people can relax following injection.
In December 2017, the city of Hamilton and McMaster University conducted a study on the needs assessment and feasibility of supervised injection sites in Hamilton. They found that nearly 80 per cent of people who inject drugs would use a supervised injection site if they had access to it.
The study also found that of the one hundred and six individuals who participated in the study, a third of participants reported daily injection use in the past six months. Between January and October 2017 there were 70 confirmed and five probable deaths linked to drug overdose, compared to 41 during the same period the year before.
Based on these statistics, Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr says that now is an important time to implement a supervised injection site within the city.
“The debates and conversations [around the topic] have been robust and really brought this very serious human health issue to the forefront,” said Farr. “That only helps in getting the message out that addictions affect us all and that the current methods of addressing them are clearly not as adequate as we would like.”
The province has said that supervised injection sites offer lifesaving support, referrals and access to primary care, social services, in addition to addiction and mental health treatment. There are currently seven sites running within Toronto and Ottawa, with one more organized to be open within the coming months.
Dr. Robin Lennox, a family physician associated with the Shelter Health Network and member of the Overdose Prevention Site Steering Committee says that the ultimate goal of the Rebecca St. facility is to create a safe, stigma-free environment where users can access harm reduction supplies and overdose response with the use of naloxone and oxygen.
“Our hope is certainly that the Overdose Prevention Site will help eliminate some of the stigma that users are currently experiencing in our community,” said Lennox. “With the creation of an Overdose Prevention Site, our community will be acknowledging the dignity of our users and their right to be kept safe and healthy.”
With new approval for a temporary site, there is an ongoing search for a place to put a permanent supervised injection location. The city of Hamilton is currently in conversation with hospitals about locating supervised sites at one of their locations.