Toronto is taking another step forward in its attempt to open three supervised safe injection sites in the city.
City officials announced Wednesday they would be submitting a formal application to the federal government on World AIDS Day to offer safe injection services at these locations: Toronto Public Health building on Victoria Street, the Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre on Bathurst Street and the South Riverdale Community Health Centre on Queen Street East.
“International research shows that supervised injection services reduce drug overdoses, save lives and limit the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C related to unsafe injection practices,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, said in a statement.
“This submission demonstrates our commitment to these essential health services and is an important collaboration between public health and our community health centres.”
Before a site can set up shop and allow intravenous drug users to inject illegal drugs under the supervision of health care professional, each site must be granted an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Earlier this summer, city councillors voted 36-3 in favour of opening the sites.
Critics argued the move will only attract dealers and other criminal activity to the area, but proponents say it makes the situation safer for everyone involved and easier for drug users to seek help to treat and try to beat their addictions.
Mayor John Tory and Police Chief Mark Saunders have both expressed support for the proposal.
A recent city report concluded that there was a 77 per cent increase in reported deaths by overdose in Toronto between 2004 and 2014; up from 146 in 2004 to 258 in 2014.
It’s estimated the annual operating cost to run three safe injection sites will be $1.8 million and $350,000 in one-time renovation costs.
The federal and provincial government have yet to commit any funding for the project.
Ottawa has already approved two similar safe injection clinics in the Vancouver area: InSite and the Dr. Peter Centre, both of which have been operating for more than 10 years.
VIDEO: Toronto officials endorse safe injection sites
-With files from Mark Carcasole