Toronto

Ontario gets 6-month extension on overdose prevention sites as it decides their fate

The federal government has given Ontario a six-month extension to allow overdose prevention sites to continue operating in the province while it decides the fate of the facilities.

The province initially said it would announce its overdose sites decision by the end of September

The federal government has given Ontario a six-month exemption that would allow overdose prevention sites to continue operating in the province. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The federal government has given Ontario a six-month extension to allow overdose prevention sites to continue operating in the province while it decides the fate of the facilities.

The province said this summer it was halting the opening of new overdose prevention sites while it conducted its review, and said it would announce its decision by the end of September.

Ontario's health minister, Christine Elliott, said in a statement late Friday afternoon that she has received data on the sites and held consultations on the issue, and is in the process of finalizing her recommendations.

She did not say when a decision would be announced or how long of an extension she sought in her statement.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says she has received data on overdose prevention sites and held consultations on the issue. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

"I immediately granted the extension and am pleased that the Ontario Government is considering the evidence we have shared," federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in a statement to CBC News. "I'm confident they will reach the same conclusion that I have; these sites save lives."

Overdose prevention sites are approved by the province following a federal decision to grant the province an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

They are temporary facilities set up to address an immediate need in a community. Safe injection sites, meanwhile, are more permanent locations approved by the federal government after a more extensive application process.

The provincial NDP released its own statement Friday evening, accusing the Ford government of "continuing to delay the opening of overdose prevention sites throughout Ontario."

"As the Ford government dithers, lives are shattered, families are destroyed, and people die," New Democrat mental health and addictions critic Bhutila Karpoche said in a statement.

"The evidence is so clear: overdose prevention sites save lives. It's time for the Ford government to stop standing in the way of health care professionals trying to save lives."

More than 3,800 people died from opioids in Canada in 2017, compared to 2,978 in 2016, according to the latest figures by Canada's health agency published last June.

With files from CBC News