Services strained with two supervised consumption sites closed

On Friday, Sandy Hill Community Health Center and Somerset West Community Health Center closed due to reports of staff feeling unwell.

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Front-line agencies at the heart of Ottawa’s drug crisis are serving more clients after two supervised drug consumption sites were temporarily closed due to health and safety concerns.

Michel Morin, block leader of the Shepherds of Good Hope, estimates that the supervised treatment and consumption site, which is located without a trailer at the men’s transitional shelter, has seen a 30 percent increase since last week.

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On Friday, Sandy Hill Community Health Center and Somerset West Community Health Center closed due to reports of staff feeling unwell. An investigation is ongoing.

A statement from chief executive Suzanne Obiorah said Somerset West Community Health Center had temporarily closed its Consumption and Treatment Service (CTS) after two recent cases of harmful fumes from medicines being heated.

“These fumes caused staff to experience nausea, dizziness and headaches. They have all recovered and are doing well. The health and safety of our staff and clients remains our top priority,” Obiorah’s statement read, adding that the temporary closure would give the health center time to consult with relevant levels of government on the matter.

While more people are coming to Shepherd’s trailer, “it causes other problems, because the site is equipped, but they don’t want to stay,” Morin said in an interview outside the Sandy Hill Community Health Center.

Morin, a former police officer, says people who use the trailer get nervous about the nearby police presence.

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As a block leader, Morin patrols the streets for trash and drug paraphernalia such as needles and pipes. Within hours of starting his shift Monday morning, he had already found four needles and five tubes, and had filled four large garbage bags with debris.

“We are always attentive because there are children around,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood, not an industrial park.”

Dave Bezanson, Sandy Hill resident
Sandy Hill resident Dave Bezanson lives a few blocks from the Sandy Hill Community Health Center. Since he closed the supervised consumption site, he said he has noticed increased public drug use in his neighborhood. Photo by Marlo Glass /postmedia

Anne Marie Hopkins, chief operating officer of Ottawa Inner City Health, an agency that provides health care to homeless people in partnership with local shelters, also says services have been affected with the closure of 50 per cent of consumption sites. city ​​insurance.

“We’re definitely seeing more visits,” he said in an interview Monday, noting that their St. Patrick Street location is the only consumer site in Ottawa that’s open 24 hours a day, and that they typically serve most of their customers. clients between 8 pm and 3 am

“Now we are seeing more visits during the day,” he said. “We hope the other sites will be able to open,” noting that the Sandy Hill Community Health Center is located just a few hundred meters from Ottawa Inner City Health.

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Dave Bezanson lives on Daly Avenue, a few blocks from the Sandy Hill Community Health Center. Since he closed the supervised consumption site, he said he has noticed increased public drug use in his neighborhood.

“It could be the weather, it could be the injection site, I have no idea,” he said. “I just know we’re seeing them more.”

Bezanson, a former drug user and dealer, says he has a unique perspective on the drug crisis facing cities across Canada. He believes drug dealers should face tougher penalties and that the supply of tainted drugs “has to stop”.

As for the nearby consumption site, people “are going to use drugs no matter what, at the safe injection site or anywhere,” he said. “That way at least there will be someone looking out for them.”

While supervised consumption sites will be closed for the foreseeable future, the sites still offer other services, including a medical clinic, walk-in services, outreach, drug screening, and harm reduction equipment distribution.

Somerset County Ward. Ariel Troster said supervised sites are “a critical service” that reverses hundreds of overdoses each year.

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He added that both sites are “really sensitive to the needs of the community” and “if anyone in the neighborhood has concerns about where people need help, they can call the facility.”

He said the lack of spaces for safer drug inhalation is crucial as new toxins contaminate the drug supply.

In response to the site closures, Ottawa Public Health is also improving its surveillance of overdoses and related trends.

READ MORE: Changes in drug habits prompt calls for safe inhalation site in Ottawa

In a memo to the city council Monday afternoon, Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s chief medical officer of health, said the public health service “will track any changes in epidemiology related to overdoses and drug use trends.” drugs and will share that information with harmful people. -reduction service providers and health system partners so they can adapt their services accordingly” and “consult with community members and businesses in the neighborhoods surrounding supervised consumption services and share that information to better understand What changes are you seeing on the ground? “

The public health agency is also working with police, first responders and other front-line agencies, “to expedite actions and mitigate any harm, especially as it relates to potentially higher rates of fatal and non-fatal overdoses,” the memo reads.

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