Photo of the Middlesex-London Health Unit from healthunit.com

Opening Of Overdose Prevention Site Moves Forward

While permanent supervised drug consumption facilities may be months away, a temporary method for tackling the opioid crisis in London has cleared a hurdle.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit and its partners submitted an application on Friday for a “temporary overdose prevention site” to be opened in downtown London.

“Temporary overdose prevention sites and even the more permanent supervised consumption facilities are not going to end the drug crisis. Londoners clearly recognize that, and want these facilities to offer links with other services,” says Dr. Christopher Mackie, medical officer of health and CEO of the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “With the input of neighbourhoods where the need is greatest, combined with new tools that will allow us to begin this work, we are now closer to being able to implement solutions for those at greatest risk.”

Overdose prevention sites allow drug users to consume drugs in a safer environment, to prevent death in the case of an overdose. These sites are also opened on a temporary basis, and drug users are not supervised directly, unlike in supervised drug consumption facilities.

The health unit immediately began looking for a suitable location for a location for the site last month after the minister of Health and Long-Term Care recognized the opioid crisis as a public health emergency. The exact location of the site is expected to be announced in the coming days

“This is a life and death matter and I am pleased with the provincial announcement to support immediate opening of temporary overdose prevention sites,” says Sonja Burke, Director of Counterpoint Harm Reduction Services at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. “This recognizes that every life is valuable and harm reduction is a critical part of the addictions continuum.”

The health unit recently held public consultations in London about supervised consumption facilities, which showed “the importance of having integrated services linking to support, treatment and rehabilitation.”

In the first half of 2017, at least 1,460 people in Canada died due to opioid-related overdoses, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.  According to public health data, that number could rise to more than 4,000 deaths once further data is analysed.