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Somerset West Community Health Centre opens temporary Overdose Prevention Site

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC) is pleased to share that it has received approval from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for an overdose prevention site, which is now open.

An overdose prevention site is a temporary and smaller version of a supervised injection site. The sites can be rapidly set up to help reduce the growing number of opioid-related overdose deaths. SWCHC’s overdose prevention site will have four stations and operate within an existing space. It will be open from 9-4 on weekdays, the centre’s standard business hours. This is different from the centre’s future supervised injection site, which will have six stations in a renovated permanent space.

Overdose prevention sites provide people who use drugs with a safer space to use drugs. People bring drugs they have previously-obtained. They inject under the supervision of staff trained to revive them in the event of an overdose. Staff provide new syringes and other equipment used for injecting drugs.

The SWCHC overdose prevention site will be located at 55 Eccles Street in the current Needle Exchange and Safer Inhalation (NESI) room. The site will provide:

  • Supervised injection
  • Harm reduction supplies, including disposal of used supplies
  • Naloxone
  • Oral and intranasal drug consumption
  • Fentanyl test strips as a drug checking service
  • Referrals to support and treatment

The overdose prevention site will operate under the same agreement and funding as the supervised injection site. This includes having health and safety measures in place that are consistent with Ministry of Health guidelines.  Learn more from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s recent announcement.

“We are in an overdose health crisis. People in Somerset West are dying,” said Dawn Lyons, Director, Family and Community Health and Harm Reduction. “Permission to run this temporary overdose prevention site will allow SWCHC to use an existing room to start watching over people injecting. This room will save lives.”

SWCHC anticipates that the health centre will continue to run as usual. The centre has staff in place to run the overdose prevention site. They anticipate that the people accessing the overdose prevention site will be same people who already access their drop-in and other health services and who will be accessing the supervised injection site in the future.

In a June 2016 report, Ottawa Public Health identified Somerset Ward as having the second highest counts and rates of average annual:

  • Emergency room visits related to unintentional drug overdose between 2013-2015.
  • Number of individuals diagnosed with Hepatitis C or HIV with reported injection drug use between 2011-2014. (Source: Problematic Substance Use in Ottawa — Technical Report, Ottawa Public Health 2016)

SWCHC frequently hears from clients that they use drugs in spaces that do not feel safe to them, including public washrooms, alleys, parks or doorways. They avoid being observed, are most often alone, may not have access to clean needles and may be rushed while they are using. Overdose is more likely and more often fatal under these conditions. The lack of a safe space to inject drugs in the Somerset Ward has resulted in a tragic increase in opioid overdose incidents, deaths and community trauma experienced by residents and our clients.

Somerset West Community Health Centre has been offering a range of harm-reduction services for 20 years. This includes condoms, smoking reduction support, crack pipes and new injection supplies. SWCHC is creating a safer neighbourhood by making it possible for people who use drugs to do so in a safe environment where drug paraphernalia can be disposed of responsibly.

Supervised Injection Site

SWCHC received approval in December 2017 to open a supervised injection site. Last week SWCHC received approval to begin the construction of the Supervised Injection Site. There is not a forecast open date.

The process to open a supervised injection site includes:

  1. Receiving an exemption from Health Canada under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This exemption will allow people to inject drugs in a specific room at SWCHC. (Status: Done)
  2. Receiving program funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (Status: Done)
  3. Receiving infrastructure funding from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for building renovation. (Status: Done)
  4. Renovation to create SIS. The SWCHC SIS will be in existing building space at 55 Eccles. SWCHC has received approval for the renovation, which has begun. (Status: underway)
  5. Final inspection and approval by Health Canada. At this time SWCHC cannot speculate on a SIS open date.