St. Catharines just opened its first safe injection site earlier this month and it’s the only one for the Niagara region.
Since opening they see at least 20 people walk through the doors every day, to get help.
“They’re coming in and touring the site. They’re coming back later to use it themselves or bringing a friend.” said Glen Walker.
Within the first two weeks, they reversed one overdose.
“We’ve gone from someone being isolated in the park to now being connected to service and being able to use safely at our site.”
According to Niagara Region Public Health, last year there were 74 opioid related deaths.
Glen Walker is the executive director of Niagara region’s first safe injection site called Streetworks in partnership with Positive Living Niagara. It’s one of 21 government approved locations across the province, designed to provide treatment and rehabilitation to those with addictions.
“We were a bit of a natural choice because we’ve already been serving this particular community for well over 25 years now.”
According to Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the site was originally paused while the government did a review. On October 22nd, they were given the green light while it filed an application under the government’s new consumption and treatment services program.
“We were delighted when the government lifted the pause and we were able to move forward.”
Here, drug users can inject under the supervision of a paramedic or trained professional.
“This site is not just about having people come and inject or inhale their substances but really about talking to staff and making connections.”
Niagara region has created the Overdose Prevention Education Network which provides professional support.
“We have an addiction counsellor that’s going to attend the site and a public health nurse that comes as well.”
Hamilton has only one safe injection site in a city where 88 people died last year from overdoses. In the first half of this year, 60 people died which is 28% higher than the same period last year.
Under the new rules, approved sites in other cities could open starting January with all sites expected to be in place by April.