New supervised injection site already eyeing expansion
Oasis looking at widening Health Canada exemption to include assisted injection
Rob Boyd wants to smile now that his supervised injection site is finally open, but he's keenly aware that the demand for the new clinic is a sign that Ottawa's opioid crisis is growing worse, not better.
"It's a strange feeling right now," Boyd said Wednesday. "I was expecting to feel very celebratory, but it's hard to feel celebratory right now because we're seeing this escalation in overdose and overdose deaths."
The clinic, at 221 Nelson St., joins two temporary sites already operating within Ottawa — one on Clarence Street, run by Ottawa Public Health in collaboration with Oasis, and another operated by Ottawa Inner City Health from inside a trailer next to the Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray Street, also in the ByWard Market.
Boyd had hoped to open his clinic six months ago, but said his team faced additional hurdles including demands for architectural drawings and detailed plans.
"A permanent site just takes longer. There was a process that was so involved that wasn't required for our interim site, or the one at Inner City Health," Boyd said.
How it works
As they enter the supervised injection site, clients are asked to first register, though they're allowed to use an alias if they prefer to remain anonymous. They're then led into a room with five stainless steel stations, each equipped with the various materials they might need to inject drugs, including a syringe, sterile water, filters and a cooker.
We do know that there are people out there who are unable or unwilling to inject themselves, and they would not be eligible to use this service.- Rob Boyd
A nurse is present during and immediately following the injection.
"We encourage people to stick around for about 20 minutes afterwards," Boyd said. "The longer they stick around, the more likely they might attach themselves to some of the other services we offer."
Eight clients have so far visited the site since it opened, Boyd said, though he expects that number to rise substantially once word gets around.
He's also aiming to expand the clinic's opening hours — currently 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m..
Looking to expand services
While the act of injecting fentanyl is illegal, Oasis and other supervised injection sites are allowed to operate thanks to an exemption from Health Canada.
However that exemption is limited to facilities where users inject without assistance, and forbids the snorting or swallowing of drugs.
"We do know that there are people out there who are unable or unwilling to inject themselves, and they would not be eligible to use this service," Boyd said. "We think that is something that we should easily consider being able to permit."
"What we're looking towards is doing client-assisted injection, so that people could bring somebody in to do the injection. We wouldn't be having our staff do that."
"When we started this seven years ago, Oxycontin was the drug that we were concerned about, and we were trying to establish this service based on that. I can't emphasize enough how much illicit fentanyl has changed that."