Hamilton

Province approves supervised injection site in Hamilton

Hamilton is getting a supervised injection site, where drug users can inject opioids under the watch of a medical professional.

The approval allows a local network to set up a temporary site

The Shelter Health Network has received provincial approval for a new temporary supervised injection site in downtown Hamilton. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Hamilton is getting a supervised injection site, where drug users can inject opioids under the watch of a medical professional.

The province announced Tuesday it had approved a temporary location run by the Shelter Health Network in partnership with Hamilton Urban Core CHC at the inner city health centre's 71 Rebecca St. location.

The approval comes with one-time provincial funding of up to $116,300 for the 2018-19 funding year.

"Every loss of life to the opioid crisis is a preventable tragedy, and every overdose treated at an overdose prevention and supervised consumption services site is someone's son or daughter being given another chance to live," said Dr. Helena Jaczek, the province's minister of health and long-term care, in a statement.

"It is more important now than ever that we continue our strategy to better support Ontarians with addiction and harm reduction supports. This crisis is not over."

The deaths are just continuing.- Dr. Jill  Wiwcharuk , Shelter Health Network

The Shelter Health Network says preliminary data shows there were 75 opioid-related deaths in Hamilton from January to October of 2017, compared to 41 over the same time period the year before.

Shelter Health Network lead physician Dr. Jill Wiwcharuk told CBC News that the need to set up a site like this is extremely pressing. One of her patients told her yesterday that a close friend of theirs just died of an overdose.

"The deaths are just continuing," she said. 

Overdoses and deaths have continued to rise in Hamilton. (CBC)

In a statement, the province said that supervised injection sites offer lifesaving supports, referrals and access to primary care, social services and addiction and mental health treatment. Seven of these sites are currently running in Toronto and Ottawa, with one more in Ottawa set to open in the coming months.

The Rebecca Street facility will include an area for three people at a time to inject "pre-obtained" drugs under the watch of a medical professional. It will also include a waiting room, a bathroom and a "chill out space," where people can spend some time after they inject to make sure they're okay.

The group organizing Hamilton's application had been frantically searching for a location in recent weeks so it could secure funding before the writ dropped for the provincial election on Wednesday, which could have brought the whole process to a screeching halt.

"It was really down to the wire," Wiwcharuk said. "We were all very relieved."

The funding sets the new Hamilton location up for six months, with the possibility of an extension in the future. Wiwcharuk said she hopes the location will be fully operational within a week or two. "I'd like to have this up and running as soon as possible," she said.

While this site now has approval, the search for a place to put a permanent supervised injection site in the city is ongoing.

Wesley Urban Ministries is still attempting to find a permanent location, and the city is currently in talks with local hospitals about locating supervised injection sites at one of their locations.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.