A small-scale overdose prevention site opened its doors on Tuesday in Thunder Bay at the NorWest Community Health Centres in partnership with Dilico Anishinabek Family Care.
“It’s very exciting. This has been a long time in the making,” said Cynthia Olsen, co-ordinator with the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, explaining that the idea for such a site was discussed when the drug strategy was being formed from 2009 to 2011.
“We included a recommendation to explore the feasibility of this type of service, recognizing we had high rates of harm due to substance use,” said Olsen.
The site was on track to open in August for six months under a Health Canada exemption when the incoming provincial Conservative government put a hold on such services across Ontario.
In October, after a review, provincial health minister Christine Elliott agreed that overdose prevention sites do help reduce drug-related deaths and said the government will fund 21 sites in Ontario under a new model called consumption and treatment services that will also offer treatment and rehabilitation.
“We’re really pleased that they found a lot of good evidence to show that when people use these sites, not only does it save lives, but it is an access point for other services,” said Jaunita Lawson, chief executive officer of NorWest Community Health Centres. “This is a health issue and embedding them within organizations that can offer access to other services is really important.”
The site, located in the basement of the NorWest Community Health Centres on Simpson Street is accessible Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — times when other services are available, explained Lawson.