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YWCA: Overdose prevention sites save lives

Published on 20/08/2018 by YWCA Canada

YWCA: Overdose prevention sites save lives

YWCA Canada joins YWCA Kitchener–Waterloo, calls on Ontario government to reverse freeze on life-saving overdose prevention sites

Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care moratorium will exacerbate public health emergency

Toronto, Canada – August 20, 2018 – The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recently announced that they will no longer approve any new overdose prevention sites. They are also putting a hold on sites in Thunder Bay, St. Catherines and Toronto and conducting a provincial review. These decisions have been widely condemned and called ‘cruel’ and ‘unreasonable’ by health care providers and the public health community.

The overdose prevention site freeze has already impacted the Waterloo community. The Region of Waterloo community services committee voted unanimously to pause the opening of new sites, until the provincial review is completed. This is despite the urgent need. In 2018, the Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services has already responded to 477 overdose-related calls, a 10.2 percent increase over the previous year. There have been 26 confirmed deaths so far and the toll is increasing.

“Last year, we saw over 85 overdose deaths in our community. It’s heartbreaking to see. This directly impacts many of the women and families we serve through our organization. Harm reduction services like overdose prevention sites are a compassionate response to the opioid epidemic in the Region of Waterloo and Ontario.” says Elizabeth Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo.

YWCA Canada supports YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo in its call to the Government of Ontario to reverse the overdose prevention site moratorium.

Maya Roy, CEO of YWCA Canada shares, “The research evidence is clear – harm reduction interventions such as overdose prevention sites save lives. The opioid overdose crisis is a national public health emergency, not unlike SARS in 2003. We need to learn from past health crises and take immediate action.”

Overdose prevention sites are temporary facilities that are set-up in communities to address an immediate need. Several research studies have found that overdose prevention sites and supervised injection sites are effective at saving lives. They are part of a broader group of public health interventions aimed at preventing overdoses, reducing the spread of infectious diseases and providing access to addictions and harm reduction services in a stigma-free environment. They have been a critical tool in addressing the opioid crisis in Canada. In 2017, Public Health Canada reported that there were nearly 4000 opioid-related deaths across the country and over 1000 opioid-related deaths in Ontario.

For more information contact Anjum Sultana, Manager of Policy & Strategic Communications, YWCA Canada at 416-962-8881 x 224.

About YWCA Canada:
YWCA Canada is the country’s oldest and largest women’s multi-service organization. YWCA works in 300 communities across Canada to serve women and girls in nine provinces and two territories. YWCA Canada is the nation’s single largest provider of shelter to women and children fleeing violence. For more information visit www.ywcacanada.ca, find us on Twitter @YWCA_Canada or at www.facebook.com/ywcacanada.

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