February 13, 2018 8:44 am

London’s temporary overdose prevention site opening ‘a good start’

An injection kit which contains a tourniquet , alcohol swabs, a cooker with a filter, extra filters, and sterile water.

Liny Lamberink / 980 CFPL

The province’s first temporary overdose prevention site (TOPS) is now up and running in London.

If the first day was any indication, it may take a while for Londoners to learn about the services that are offered as only a handful of people used the site Monday.

“There were only four clients but that is a good start,” said Shaya Dhinsa, manager of sexual health at the Middlesex London Health Unit.

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“It’s new for the clients to be able to access this site and I’m sure they’re wondering what it’s like. A couple people will come through and I’m sure it’ll spread that, hopefully, it was a good experience for them.”

“There’s no judgment, no stigma and we’re offering support.”

READ MORE: Ontario’s first temporary overdose prevention site opens in London

Once the site had closed for the day, Sonja Burke, director of Counterpoint Harm Reduction Services at the regional HIV/AIDS connection, which is embedded with TOPS at 186 King St., took the media on a walk-through of the site.

When someone enters the site, they are first directed to sit in a general waiting room, said Burke. Once a person identifies they would like to use the overdose prevention site, they are moved from the general waiting room to the overdose prevention waiting room. From there, they talk to the individuals about the rights and responsibilities or code of conduct and they also ask what supports the person needs so staff can ensure those are in place.

Burke said it’s also important to talk to the individuals so they know they are involved in the decisions that happen at the site.

Once that information is provided, they are brought into the injection room, given the equipment they need and placed at an individual station, said Burke.

READ MORE: Health unit to open temporary overdose prevention site in downtown London

She says a health cart, which holds any supplies an individual might need should they go into any kind of medical emergency also sits in the injection room.

At another table in the injection room, individuals are provided with education, support and information, ensuring their health care needs are met and they are able to inject safely. Should nothing occur in terms of medical concern, individuals then go into the aftercare room, said Burke.

Burke adds they also spend a fair bit of time around safe disposal.

“We have multiple types of sharps containers and we encourage everyone to bring their sharps back to us so we can safely dispose of them,” she said.

While it may have been a slow start for the first TOPS in the province, Dhinsa feels it was a success.

“That’s four less people injecting in public, four more people in an environment where they could be monitored for overdose,” she said.

— With files from Liny Lamberink 

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