The first city-run supervised injection site will open in Lowertown Tuesday afternoon to fight the growing opioid crisis, as the volunteer group that his been running an unsanctioned site only a few streets away says it will continue to operate.
Ottawa Public Health has been working with the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre to allow the city’s Clarence Street clinic to operate as an interim site, using the exemption Sandy Hill received earlier this summer from Health Canada.
The supervised injection site will operate from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., in a harm reduction clinic with an established needle exchange program.
Ottawa Public Health plans to hire and train enough staff to expand the hours of the supervised injection service to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, by Oct. 10. The site is estimated to have capacity for six clients per hour.
Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa’s chief medical officer of health, said the morning is also a time where people are at risk of overdoses.
“Ideally, I’d like to offer 24-hour service and really the key operational question is what is our staffing capacity and capability,” Levy said.
A few shots of the “open concept” supervised site. Two stalls for people to inject. Openness will allow nurses to intervene in emergencies. pic.twitter.com/MCiStP7hbT
There are two booths where people can come and inject drugs under the supervision of a public health nurse, who will then monitor them for the signs and symptoms of an overdose.
A second nurse will stand by in case of an overdose and offer training along with other harm reduction services that are already part of the operation of the site.
Levy wrote a memo earlier this month to the mayor, council and board of health stressing there was an “urgent and immediate need” for supervised injection services in Ottawa.
The temporary site will run using funding from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that was recently announced in response to the opioid crisis.
‘Both in the business of saving lives’
The interim site proposal was put forward after Overdose Prevention Ottawa opened a volunteer-staffed tent site offering supervised injection services at Lowertown’s Raphael Brunet Park in late August.
Some neighbours have complained that the unsanctioned site is too close to children, takes up too much space in the park, and is operating illegally.