Ottawa group proposes mobile supervised consumption site

A new supervised drug consumption site could soon be coming to Ottawa’s streets and rolling to any corner of the city.

Sure Shot Mobile Outreach asks for provincial funding for site that could move to where demand is high

Leila Attar is a co-founder of the group looking to bring a mobile supervised consumption site to Ottawa. (Joe Lofaro/CBC)

A local group wants to put a travelling supervised consumption site on Ottawa's streets. 

Sure Shot Mobile Outreach, a new not-for-profit group, has submitted a request to the province for $368,700 over the next six months to set up a mobile site on wheels.  

Leila Attar, a co-founder of the group who has worked with Overdose Prevention Ottawa, said they want to be able to reach communities that currently aren't being served and supervise ways to take drugs other than just injection.  

"We would go to different areas of town that we know are high risk for overdoses or that are underserved by the current safe injection sites that are operating in the city," she said.  

OPH cancels its plans

Overdose Prevention Ottawa operated a pop-up supervised injection site in a downtown park last year.

At the time, there were no sanctioned supervised sites operating in Ottawa, but now there are four: three around the ByWard Market area and one in Chinatown.

Attar said the situation is improving, but there is still a crisis that needs more help.

"People are dying, my friends are dying and the fact is there is a need for more services in the city," she said.  

She said the mobile unit will be able to respond more immediately if a batch of drugs with particularly high levels of fentanyl start circulating in one particular neighbourhood.  

"We are going to be able to catch and react to those kinds of pockets of drugs that are really toxic," she said.

Attar worked with Overdose Prevention Ottawa last summer when the group set up a supervised consumption site near the ByWard Market. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

OPH cancels its plans

Ottawa Public Health asked the city last fall for a large van to provide a similar mobile service.

Donna Casey, a spokesperson for the agency, said they have decided against going ahead with it.

"OPH has since informed the City's corporate services department that we are not proceeding with a mobile SIS at this time," she said in an email.

She said they only heard about the Sure Shot application on Wednesday and Ottawa Public Health would be willing to meet with the group to talk about how to enhance services in the community.

The provincial grant program can also give exemptions to criminal legislation, which would allow people to use without fear of criminal charges.

Attar said they hope to hear back within a few weeks on their grant application.