Province should 'reverse freeze' on overdose prevention sites: YWCA Canada

YWCA Canada wrote a public letter to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care asking them to end the moratorium on overdose prevention sites. The letter specifically mentioned Waterloo region.

'Province is not letting community leaders and local policy makers be responsive,' YWCA CEO says

An injection kit is shown at a supervised drug injection facility in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

YWCA Canada is asking the province to end the moratorium on overdose prevention sites and says the "freeze" is negatively impacting Waterloo region. 

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced last month that the province is reviewing evidence on the sites to see if they have merit and are worth continuing.  

At a regional council meeting on Aug. 23, councillors officially voted to hit the pause button on setting up supervised consumption sites in Kitchener and Cambridge until the provincial review is complete. 

"Just because someone is living with an addiction, doesn't mean that they don't deserve treatment to services," said Maya Roy, the CEO of YWCA Canada. 

"My colleagues in Waterloo have been really active, they've seen the impacts every single day," Roy said. 

Elizabeth Clarke is the CEO of YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo. In the letter, she wrote that the decision not to open any new overdose prevention sites directly impacts the women and families they serve.

"It's heartbreaking to see," Clarke wrote in the letter.

Evidence-based review underway

The organization has not yet received a response from the provincial government. 

"We want to see a response from the government around giving the regional government some clarity so they can go on and do the work they need to do," she said. 

Hayley Chazan, Elliot's press secretary, said the health minister expects the review "to conclude in short order and will be making a recommendation on how to proceed." 

Chazan said in the coming weeks, Elliot will be "undertaking an evidence-based review, listening to experts, community leaders and community members to ensure that any continuation of drug injection sites introduce people into rehabilitation, and ensure people struggling with addiction get the help they need."

"That's why the ministry has indicated that no new sites should open to the public at this time," Chazan said. ​

Roy said the freeze is still "unfortunate." 

"The local government is trying to respond to community needs and the province is not letting community leaders and local policy makers be responsive to what they're seeing on the ground," she said.