More than 250 people died from overdoses in 2014, Toronto's Board of Health was told on Monday as it met to approve plans to move ahead with three supervised injection sites.
The 2014 death toll, 252, is the most up to date statistic available and represents an increase from 2013, when 206 drug-users died.
Coun. Joe Cressy, who has been an outspoken supporter of the proposed supervised injection sites, called the new number "painful."
"Supervised injection — it's time," Cressy tweeted as the board met.
Last Monday, Dr. David McKeown, the city's medical officer of health, released a report calling for the creation of three supervised injection sites in Toronto. On Thursday, more than 55 community leaders, including five former Toronto mayors, expressed support for the plan.
Today, the board officially decided to move forward with the plan by first consulting the community about the proposed sites.
Some have already voiced concerns about Toronto's plan. A mother of a daughter who struggles with addiction told CBC News last week that she believes the sites will only enable those who inject drugs and will remove consequences of addiction.
Consultation already underway
Cressy said consultation with community groups, neighbourhood organizations and business improvement associations about the three sites has already begun.
"The consultation is ongoing, detailed and frequent," Cressy said.
Cressy said the board will also direct Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's chief medical officer of health, to report to the board in July on the outcome of consultation.
The safe injection sites would be at the following locations:
- Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre at Bathurst and Queen Streets;
- South Riverdale Community Health Centre, near Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue;
- The Works Needle Exchange Program, near Victoria and Dundas Streets.
Cressy said the three sites have yet to apply for an exemption from the federal health minister under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow them to operate, and he expects they will do so in the fall after they have fulfilled the criteria required.
The report said the sites would provide safe, hygienic environments for people to inject drugs under a nurse's supervision.
McKeown has said the sites would save lives, reduce drug overdoses and limit the spread of blood-borne diseases.
Toronto saw a 41 per cent increase in reported overdoses from 2004 to 2013, according to the report.
Painful new numbers just released. In 2014 there were 252 overdose deaths (up from 206 in 2013) in Toronto. Supervised injection - it's time— @joe_cressy
Important Board of Health meeting today to consider next steps for supervised injection services. It's about public health & public safety.— @joe_cressy