Apr 18, 2019
Thanks to this life-saving donation from the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, we can continue serving clients at our Overdose Prevention Site for one more month. Government funding cuts have cast a shadow of uncertainty over an already deadly, steadily worsening overdose crisis
On the afternoon of Friday, March 29th, 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Health announced they were immediately cutting funding to our Overdose Prevention Site. Now, in the middle of the worst public health crisis of a generation, the government expected us to shut down with no notice to the people who have come to depend on us.
The Street Health OPS has supervised nearly 2000 injections, and reversed 35 overdoses. The number of ODs reversed is an important part of the story – each one represents a life saved in that moment. But OPS staff do A LOT more than just save lives by reversing overdoses. Having an easily accessible ‘one-stop shop’ for our clients who use drugs (in the neighbourhood where they are already using them) is absolutely critical. Beyond monitoring people for overdose, we refer people to our onsite health care and social services on a daily basis. We have over 30 years’ experience of offering personalized wrap-around care. Because our site is staffed primarily by people who have experience with drug use and our space is low barrier, people who may feel more vulnerable at busier Supervised Injection Sites feel comfortable here. We see a higher proportion of women than any other site in the city, and the majority of our clientele are homeless and street involved, involved in sex work, and come with histories of trauma.
We want the province to understand that the key element of what we do here is to build relationships and trust with vulnerable groups of people who are often not accessing support anywhere else. We know that demonstrating to people that they are loved and valued despite their drug use is essential to changing lives…indeed, essential to saving lives .