Kingston’s Street Health Centre is hoping for good news on March 31, when the Ontario government will decide whether to continue funding safe injection sites in the province.
Currently, there are 21 locations in Ontario that allow drug users to inject illicit drugs under the supervision of medical staff. Street Health Centre is one of those sites.
With the funding deadline looming, Street Health Centre CEO, Mike Bell, is uncertain about the future of the facility’s safe injection program.
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“We have been in existence for eight months, and staff and clients are waiting anxiously for the verdict,” said Bell.
According to Bell, the safe injection site has been visited over 2,000 times and serves not only as an overdose prevention tool but provides clients with necessary treatment.
During last year’s provincial election campaign, Premier Doug Ford made it clear that he was opposed to safe injection and overdose prevention sites, though his party says Ford has committed to reviewing evidence on the issue.
In November, Randy Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, visited the Street Health Centre and, after his tour, told Global News that the quality of staff and treatment provided at the facility will serve the community for years to come.
Hillier was previously a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus; he is now serving as an Independent.
In an email to Global News, Kingston and the Islands NDP MPP Ian Arthur responded to the provincial government’s handling of safe injection sites by saying: “The urgency of this crisis is particularly strong in Kingston, where the death rate from opioids is higher than the provincial average. It’s appalling that the Ford government continues to ignore this crisis.”
With potential funding cuts on the horizon, Bell says safe injection sites would continue to be able to operate because of a federal exemption but would need to rely on donations to stay open.
The Street Health Centre says it needs around $600,000 to operate its safe injection facility.