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Board approves health unit’s proposal for supervised consumption in London

An injection kit at London's temporary overdose prevention site, picture on Feb 12th, 2017. Liny Lamberink / 980 CFPL

The city’s Board of Health was quick to approve the business proposal for two permanent supervised consumption facilities in the city.

The proposal, tabled at Thursday night’s meeting, also included plans for a mobile site.

READ MORE: MLHU to present business case for 2 permanent supervised injection sites in London

The evidence is clear that these facilities are beneficial for several reasons, said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie.

“It’s really important that people know that the entire cost of a year of operating one supervised consumption facility is less than the cost of a single case of HIV over a lifetime.”

“We know that we’re saving the system money. We’re seeing people who are being diverted away from the emergency rooms. We’re saving lives on the side, but we also know that this is a very good investment,” Mackie said.

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There is still uncertainty at the provincial level, as Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government said it will not approve any more new sites until it completes a review of their effectiveness.

READ MORE: Ontario pauses opening 3 overdose-prevention sites while it conducts review

“We know that the government is considering this issue closely, that they are looking to ensure that services are meeting the mental health and addictions needs of the clients,” Mackie said.

“I met with health minister Christine Elliot last month and shared [the report] with her then and she was appreciative,” he said.

“We’re really looking to the government to take an evidence-informed and good fiscal decision on supervised consumption facilities.”

The province said it would make a decision on the sites by the end of September.

WATCH: Overwhelming demand at Edmonton supervised consumption sites

Click to play video: 'Overwhelming demand at Edmonton supervised consumption sites' Overwhelming demand at Edmonton supervised consumption sites
Overwhelming demand at Edmonton supervised consumption sites – Sep 20, 2018

Back in May, the Middlesex London Health Unit received provincial support in the form of letters detailing capital and operational funding from the then Liberal minister of health and long-term care.

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It’s unclear whether the current review from the province will affect London’s proposed facilities.

The sites will also need federal approval. After that, they’ll have to go through the local zoning process.

The first temporary overdose prevention site in Ontario opened in London in February.

According to Mackie, the site sees about 50 to 60 people a day. In August, there were 23 overdoses, compared to just eight in the previous five months.

— With files from Jake Jeffrey. 

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