Ontario rejects several supervised drug-use site applications, approved sites still waiting for funding
2019-06-09 from www.theglobeandmail.com
The Ontario government has rejected several applications for supervised drug-use sites and has yet to issue funding for those approved earlier this year, prompting fears the province is backing out of its commitment to overdose prevention and harm reduction services.
The province told the Middlesex-London Health Unit this week that its application for a permanent supervised drug-use site had been rejected. Two other sites in Toronto that had previously been rejected and told by the province to reapply, also had their applications rejected for a second time.
The issue of supervised drug-use sites has been controversial since the Conservative government came into office. Last year Premier Doug Ford said the government would temporarily pause the opening of any new sites until the province could conduct a review. In the fall, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the province would allow a limited number of supervised drug-use sites under a new model, called Consumption and Treatment Services, that emphasizes access to treatment and other health services.
In March, the province approved the first 15 sites, noting that it may approve others as applications are received.
Many in London thought the health unit’s application would be approved and the rejection came as a surprise. Chris Mackie, the medical officer of health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said the rejection letter from the province offered no explanation. He said he expected the site to be okayed, as it had been backed by the previous Liberal government and a funding agreement with the province was in place.
The health unit will continue operating a temporary supervised drug-use site a short distance away from the proposed permanent location, Dr. Mackie said, adding that the province has also encouraged them to apply for a mobile site.
As for the 15 approved sites announced in March, they are still waiting for the province to finalize funding agreements and provide them with operating money. Gillian Kolla, a co-ordinator with the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, said many site operators are concerned.
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