The Ontario government has announced plans to replace supervised consumption sites (SCS) and low-barrier overdose prevention sites (OPS) with “Consumption and Treatment Services” (CTS).
HALCO, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society wrote an open letter to Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott on October 31, 2018.
As organizations concerned with the health and welfare of some of the most vulnerable Ontarians, we wrote to welcome the government’s stated commitment to maintain existing SCS and OPS in Ontario but also to raise deep concerns that:
- the government’s new approach to supervised consumption services will create more barriers instead of facilitating the rapid scale-up of a diversity of much-needed supervised consumption services across the province.
- the decision to impose one CTS model on service providers is essentially terminating the low-threshold, flexible OPS model (OPS have reversed thousands of overdoses and no deaths have been recorded at OPS).
- the requirement for existing SCS and OPS to undergo a new application process, with additional requirements but without additional funding, imposes burdens and hurdle
- the requirement to provide treatment and rehabilitation services is not in line with harm reduction values of meeting people where they are.
- the arbitrary cap of 21 sites means people who are not near sites will not have access to life-saving care, which will undoubtedly mean more preventable overdose deaths and new HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.
We agree that there are inadequate drug treatment, mental health services and supportive housing options available for people who use drugs, and providing greater support for these services is laudable. But it should not come at the expense of life-saving supervised consumption services, including low-threshold services that are varied, responsive and meet the needs of their communities.
We urge the government to reconsider the decision to create new hurdles for service providers to receive funding to provide supervised consumption services and to limit the number of sites to 21. We call on the government to work with people who use drugs, community organizations and other health service providers to ensure greater, equitable access to SCS and OPS for the people of Ontario. Lives are at stake.
For more information, please see the open letter on our website:
- English: www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Ont-CTS-2018Oct.pdf
- Français: www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Ont-CTS-2018Oct_FR.pdf
Here are link to Ministry announcements:
If you are living with HIV in Ontario and have questions about this or any other legal issue, please contact us for free legal advice.