The Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre officially opened up their new safe injection site on Friday.
The site provides an environment where drug users can safely inject pre-obtained drugs.
It also allows them access to the other services provided by the Community Health Centre including sterile injection suppliers, overdose prevention and intervention, and medical and counselling services.
Supervised Consumption Service Manager Lorraine Barnaby says, since it’s located within the community health centre, the supervised consumption service provides a bridge to all other services.
“When people get engaged with these types of services and these supports, it really makes a life changing impact. Being connected to counselling and primary care has a transformative effect on stabilizing their lives.”
The space includes four injection booths, a ‘chill-out’ lounge that allows the centre to monitor people for an adverse reaction to the drugs or overdose, and a waiting area.
She adds research shows supervised consumption services also reduce the number of drug overdoses and deaths, and reduces risk factors related to drug use.
In terms of the community impact of a supervised consumption service, it reduces the amount of discarded needles and drug use in public. Research also shows it does not contribute to an increase in crime or the number of drug users.
Barnaby says the people who access many of their services are already a part of the Parkdale community and the majority of drug users in Toronto will only travel one kilometer to access supervised consumption services.
PQWCHC has been providing harm reduction services for the last 20 years including a needle distribution and return. Barnaby says in 2016, they actually had a 114 per cent needle return rate, meaning more needles were returned to them than were distributing to people.
PQWCHC has been working for several years to receive approval for the site. Community consultation took place extensively over the last two years, gathering input from local residents, schools, businesses and other community groups.
They also set up a community liaison committee with diverse community representation that will provide a forum for residents to share information and talk about any concerns.
Health Canada gave final approval for an exemption from the Controlled Drug and Substances Act on March 5 after the Queen West site passed the inspection and fulfilled all requirements.
This is the third safe consumption site to open in Toronto. There is one on Victoria Street at The Works and at The South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Leslieville.