Harm reduction workers celebrating their temporary agreement with local law enforcement for the opening of the pop-up safe injection site at Moss Park in Toronto. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Toronto opened the 1st pop-up safe injection site.

The city of Toronto has not ‘blessed’ the project. However, activists for the site are excited about it, and “hope authorities won’t shut them down” (Nasser, 2017).

For one of the underserved sectors of the Toronto community, the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance will open on Saturday. Harm reduction workers and activists, and advocates, have been making calls for something like this for some time (Rieti, 2017).

Three people have died, recently, due to overdoses (Glover, 2017). This is seen as a wakeup call by many (The Canadian Press, 2017). With these deaths, and with the ongoing protestations of harm reduction activists, they are taking these issues on for the community on their own. These are unregulated pop-up safe injection sites. The exact site, was not given by harm reduction worker matt Johnson in conversation with CBC News, to protect users and organizers (Nasser, 2017).

Johnson said, “We just can’t wait any longer.… With this many deaths we just can’t afford to.” The advocates for harm reduction consider the harm reduction sites sanctioned, or ‘blessed,’ by the city of Toronto. Advocates for harm reduction have been making calls for the declaration of a public health emergency alongside immediate funding for the 24-hour care for substance users.

Many have praised the city sites. However, these are considered insufficient by the harm reduction advocates. “They were opened to deal with the overdose problem that we had — not the increase that we’re dealing with. So they can’t handle the overflow that we’re seeing now,” Johnson said, citing a rash of drug overdose deaths in the past month that prompted police to issue a public alert.”

Mayor John Tory met with John and other harm reduction advocates for reassurance that the city’s staff and police will not attempt to take down the pop-up harm reduction site and would permit the harm reduction group to stay there.

The assurance was not given to the activists. Chair of the board of health, Joe Mihevc, told CBC News that the city of Toronto has been working to develop more city-sanctioned sites, but that this takes time. Harm reduction activists appear to have been opening up these in the light of the delays.

 

References

Glover, C. (2017, August 11). 3 dead in Durham region from drug overdoses, fentanyl suspected. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/three-dead-durham-overdoses-1.4243468.

Nasser, S. (2017, August 11). Toronto’s 1st pop-up safe-injection site set to open without city’s blessing. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-overdose-prevention-pop-up-site-1.4244301.

Rieti, J. (2017, August 11). Toronto harm reduction advocates pushing for pop-up safe-injection sites. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/push-for-pop-up-injection-sites-1.4243020.

The Canadian Press. (2017, July 31). Spate of drug overdoses in Toronto wakeup call, experts say. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-ovedose-alert-1.4228660.  

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