Opioid crisis: Moss Park overdose prevention site thrown a lifeline

published on May 22, 2018 by Declan Keogh in NOW Toronto

The unsanctioned safe injection site housed for nine months in a tent at Moss Park gets some much-needed funding and a permanent space indoors, but without decriminalization of hard drugs activists say the opioid crisis can’t be beaten

On May 11, almost nine months after they opened in a tent in Moss Park, volunteers at the overdose prevention site (OPS) announced that they had received a federal exemption to operate legally. Along with that announcement came six months’ funding and a new indoor facility set to open in early June in a repurposed art gallery a few blocks away. The funding will provide not only a permanent home, but jobs and, what volunteers seem to be most excited about after a cold winter, plumbing.

The Moss Park OPS will operate with the “arm’s length” support of South Riverdale Community Health Centre, says SRCHC CEO Lynne Raskin. Staff at Moss Park’s new home will report to SRCHC, which operates one of Toronto’s four safe-injection sites. “It’s good news, it means they don’t have to abandon the folks they’ve already created relationships with,” says Raskin.

Councillor Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto Drug Strategy, commended the Moss Park volunteers, calling them “courageous activists” who stepped into a “flawed system” to save lives and helped change provincial and federal policy on safe injection sites.

As a result, the resistance towards safe injection sites is changing at City Hall, says Cressy. It used to be that he would be asked whether the sites were really necessary, now he’s asked why they can’t be opened sooner.

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