Health Canada approves two permanent consumption sites in London

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

The federal government has approved London’s applications for consumption and treatment service sites at 446 York St. and 241 Simcoe St.

Officials from the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) and Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) made the announcement Thursday morning, after learning about the approval late Wednesday afternoon.

“We were concerned about having to have a break in service at some point, which would really break the trust with our clients,” said medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie. “That’s not going to happen, we have the support of both the provincial and federal government, both in writing came through yesterday [Wednesday] so this really ties that last loose end up.”

Health Canada says the temporary overdose prevention site may continue as an interim facility until the 446 York St. site is operational. An affordable housing building occupies 446 York St., while 241 York St. is home to John Bellone’s Musical Instruments.

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In a media release, health officials note they’ve also received provincial approval to keep the TOPS running until the end of 2018.

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The site is embedded inside RHAC’s space at 186 King St., where staff there say they have reversed 40 overdoses using naloxone and oxygen.

RHAC executive director Brian Lester said he’s pleased that they’re moving forward with this plan, because if Ottawa had chosen differently, lives would be lost.

“What would have happened is more people would be dying,” Lester said. “When you think about the overdose reversals that we’ve been successfully able to do in the day-to-day service that we’re offering, that wouldn’t have been available, so people would die, more people would be dying in our community if we weren’t able to continue this service, that’s for sure.”

The province announced a new model for the harm reduction sites last week; that’s why the facilities are being called “consumption and treatment services sites” instead of “supervised consumption sites.”

Under the new model, federal approval is needed before the province will consider a consumption and treatment service site. The MLHU and RHAC are now waiting on the province for more details about the application process for the permanent sites.

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London’s TOPS has had more than 8,300 visits since opening in mid-February. Staff have referred 186 clients to addictions treatment, 144 clients to housing support agencies, and 186 clients to other health-care services.


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