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Overdose prevention advocates ‘discouraged’ by meeting with N.S. health minister

WATCH: Health Minister Randy Delorey hasn't rejected the overdose prevention model but he needs more information before he makes a decision.

Harm reduction advocates say they are disheartened after a recent presentation to Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey to propose opening an overdose prevention site (OPS) in Halifax.

“I don’t know what else we could bring forward. I don’t know how many more people have to die for this to happen,” said Matthew Bonn, an advocate for the site.

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“We have everything we need. We have Halifax Regional Police saying, that ‘we support this, that this is a good idea.’ I think he really has to come here and talk to us.”

READ MORE: Halifax mother’s death prompts calls for an overdose prevention site

The Department of Health says Delorey was presented with information Monday regarding an overdose prevention model.

Delorey hasn’t rejected the overdose prevention model but a spokesperson says he needs more information before he makes a decision.

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Widespread support for the site in Halifax’s north end has been voiced by healthcare and political leaders.

A letter of support from Halifax Mayor Mike Savage regarding the proposal to open an Overdose Prevention Site in Halifax.
A letter of support from Halifax Mayor Mike Savage regarding the proposal to open an Overdose Prevention Site in Halifax. Alexa MacLean/Global News
A letter of support from Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais regarding the proposal to open an Overdose Prevention Site in Halifax.
A letter of support from Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais regarding the proposal to open an Overdose Prevention Site in Halifax. Alexa MacLean/Global News

Letters have been sent to the OPS committee supporting the initiative by Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais.

Blais stated in his support letter that the issue of the rising toxicity deaths and the increase of fentanyl in the illicit drug scene has resulted in a health crisis in the community.

The letter says Halifax Regional Police have seized more heroin between 2017 and 2018 than they have in decades.

“We’ve been working directly with Nova Scotia Health Authority and we really thought that this time it was going to get approved. There’s an overwhelming amount of research of why we need one in Halifax,” Bonn said.

Delorey hasn’t rejected the overdose prevention model but health department communications wrote in an email stating that he wasn’t in a position to approve the site at this time without further information.

“The Minister was presented with information Monday about an overdose prevention model and has asked staff for more detail. Staff are reviewing options, how it would fit in the province’s overall harm reduction approach and will develop recommendations,” wrote Tracy Barron, department spokesperson.

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Health Canada has approved the opening of overdose prevention and safe consumption sites across Canada as a way to decrease the number of overdose deaths related to substance use.

According to the Health Canada website, “evidence shows clearly that they help to save lives and improve health.”

READ MORE: Academic community in Halifax voices support for overdose prevention site

The province noted that the community organization requesting an OPS doesn’t have to wait for provincial approval because a federal exemption could be granted.

However, the OPS committee says it wants to follow “proper approval channels” and will continue to wait on the province for a clear answer before pursuing further action.