City in talks with Hamilton hospitals about hosting supervised injection sites

Hamilton's mayor and public health staff are in talks with local officials about locating supervised injection sites in the city's hospitals.

Coun. Jason Farr says there's an urgent need to get a site up and running

Hamilton city council is looking at approaching local hospitals to house supervised injection sites in light of the city's opioid overdose crisis. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Hamilton's mayor and public health staff are in talks with local hospitals about locating supervised injection sites at one of their locations.

There are injection sites all around us, but they're happening in alleyways and in parks.- Jason Farr

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in an email to councillors Friday that he's "had discussions with the hospital officials." Council is expected to formalize that with a motion Wednesday being brought forward by downtown councillor Jason Farr.

"In my mind, the best locale for a safe injection site is in one of our hospitals," Eisenberger said, "or in a hospital-owned facility very near one of our inner city hospitals." 

The news came after Jason Farr, councillor for Ward 2 downtown, said the city should ask Hamilton Health Sciences or St. Joseph's Healthcare to host a site. Local landlords have been reluctant to allow the sites in their buildings, Farr said. 

Even an effort to host a temporary site in a trailer encountered bureaucratic hurdles in terms of zoning and building permits, said Daljit Garry from Wesley Urban Ministries.

Meanwhile, Hamilton saw 70 confirmed opioid overdose deaths, and five probable ones, between January and October of last year. That's up from 41 in the same time period in 2016.

Hamilton is also far above the provincial rate for opioid overdoses, Farr said. So the site needs to happen now. 

"There are injection sites all around us, but they're happening in alleyways and in parks," he said.

CBC contacted Hamilton Health Sciences for comment and the corporation provided a statement expressing general support for collaborative efforts to deal with overdoses, but did not deal directly with the corporation's willingness to become home to a site.

"HHS is working with its partners to address the needs of very vulnerable members of our community," read the statement from Dr. Wes Stephen, Executive Vice President of  Clinical Operations and Chief Operating Officer.

"The opioid crisis will only be solved through a partnership between all parties involved."

Timing is important politically. Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario PC party says he's "dead against" supervised injection sites. There's a provincial election June 7.

"I don't believe in safe-injection areas, as I call them. I believe in supporting people, getting them help," Ford said in April. The Ontario Liberals and NDP support the sites.

Farr said addicts who use supervised consumption sites are given resources to get off drugs. That's a big part of the city's plan, which it approved last December.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

With files from Adam Carter

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