Toronto city council is all for supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users.
Today, the council voted 36-3 to support the Board of Health’s recommendations to move forward with the proposition of three injection sites.
The sites would be located in existing community health centres on Queen Street West, near Yonge and Dundas, and in Leslieville.
All three centres currently have needle exchange programs.
“Injection drug use is already happening in these three communities,” Coun. Joe Mihevc told reporters following the vote, according to CP24. “It is happening in the laneways, it is happening in the parks, it is happening in the donut shops and restaurants. We are looking forward to helping the injection drug users, but also helping those communities become safer places. That is precisely why we had the support of business associations in those areas as well as community organizations.”
Mayor John Tory wasn’t quick to initially endorse the idea, and expressed “discomfort” at the concept earlier. However, he is now convinced that the sites are “the right and moral thing to do.”
Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti, Christen Carmichael Greb and Stephen Holyday were the only three to vote against the sites. Council rejected Mammoliti’s motion to change the location of the sites to hospitals, pharmacies and medical clinics.
The decision came after an extensive public consultation process between March and May.
The consultation included an online survey that was completed by 1,285 residents as well as a series of local “town hall-like” events in the affected neighbourhoods.
In a report, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown highlighted that 84 to 96 per cent of respondents to the survey identified benefits associated with supervised injection sites (depending on the location). Only 14 per cent to 36 per cent identified concerns (depending on the location).
While there are expectedly some affected by a case of NIMBYism, McKeown’s report recommends establishing community advisory committees to identify and work to rectify ongoing concerns.
Though some residents won’t be happy and the initiative will be costly to implement (the cost of setting up the sites is estimated at $100,000-$150,000 per centre), the bottom line is that they will save lives.
In 2014, a total of 258 people died as a result of a drug overdose in Toronto, compared to 146 in 2004.
The city will now apply for federal exemption under drug laws to offer services with a trained medical staff. If all goes according to plan, the sites could be open next year.