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Province steps up to keep pop-up injection site running through winter

CityNews | posted Friday, Nov 3rd, 2017

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The Ontario government is stepping in to help winterize a pop-up safe injection site in Moss Park while they wait for approval to get the operation moved indoors.

The unsanctioned site has been allowed to operate without city or police interference since the summer. It’s run by volunteers who are trained to use Naloxone, an overdose antidote.

“We’ve stopped over 85 overdoses since August 12,” said harm-reduction advocate Nick Boyce of Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

“We’ve witnessed close to 2,000 injections. We’re trying to move drug-use out of the alleyway to a safe environment. The drug supply is so toxic people are dropping. Those are 85 people that would be dead if we weren’t here.”

With temperatures falling, it was hoped the safe injection site could be moved to the basement of a nearby drop-in centre. Mayor John Tory and Ontario Health Minster Eric Hoskins have thrown their support behind the request but they need a federal exemption before that can happen. After determining they couldn’t wait any longer, the province offered up an ambulatory tent with heat and power.

But not everyone is welcoming the province’s move. In an open letter, city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti blasted the mayor for supporting unsafe injection sites.

“Rather than offer real help to those who are suffering from mental health issues and addictions, Mayor John Tory and the Board of Health are enabling very dangerous and disruptive behavior,” says Mammoliti.

“Drug abuse is not a victimless crime. …Who would want their children to be walking around or playing in the parks and streets next to injection sites?”

Mammoliti wants to see the provincial government make safe injection services and addiction treatment available in hospitals.

Toronto received approval for three permanent facilities in June. They are located at Toronto Public Health’s The Works, the Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre, and the South Riverdale Community Health Centre.

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