The city’s plan to open three supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users remains in limbo, nearly six months after being overwhelmingly approved by council.
Council voted in favour of opening the sites back in July but in order to move ahead the city still needs funding from the province and federal approval.
The city completed its application for an exemption to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act (CDSA) and submitted it to Health Canada last month, though it is not clear when that exemption may be granted.
“We are waiting for a federal exemption and we are told that it is coming soon but of course the longer we delay the more people may be at risk,” Coun. Joe Cresssy, who is the chair of the Toronto drug strategy implementation panel, told CP24 on Friday. “We are also waiting on the province. The Province of Ontario has not confirmed whether they will fund the small amount of money to run these sites. They fund hospitals, they should fund these sites.”
The proposed supervised injection sites would be located at the Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre, the South Riverdale Community Health Centre and the Toronto Public Health facility located at 277 Victoria Street.
The cost of setting up the sites is estimated at $100,000 to $150,000 per centre but proponents argue that the cost is minimal, given the fact that the facilities have the potential to save lives.
In 2014, the most recent year in which statistics are available, a total of 258 people died as a result of a drug overdose in Toronto. That’s compared to 146 in 2004.
“Time is of the essence because we need these safe injection sites today, in fact we needed them yesterday,” Cressy told CP24. “People are dying on the streets in increasing numbers.”
There are currently two supervised-injection sites operating in Vancouver, however there are none located elsewhere in Canada.
Cressy told CP24 that he is encouraged by comments that the Liberal government in Ottawa has made in support of supervised injection facilities but has been “disappointed” by the silence the city has encountered at Queen’s Park so far.
“We know it works, we know it saves life and we need it now,” he said. “That’s the crux of the problem.”