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Parkdale health centre exploring options as province pauses overdose-prevention site

Staff at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre is looking at options after the province squashed their plans to open an overdose-prevention site on Monday.

The Health Minister announced Monday she wants to conduct a review to determine the site’s merits, but for people in the community struggling with drug use, the decision is unconscionable.

Health Centre officials spent Tuesday in meetings trying to figure out exactly how to address the situation.

While they are pushing the government to reverse this decision, there are other options on the table – one of those being to open this site regardless of what the province has decided.

“My friends being saved. That’s the most important thing,” said Steven Raymond Brown. “I want people to live.”

Brown had watched friends die and he has overdosed five times. He says an OPS in the community would be invaluable.

“They monitor you. You are being nursed. So you go in there, you make sure you do your proper shots, and if you do OD, then you have protection right away,” he said.

The province’s sudden decision to put the brakes on opioid prevention sites has the medical community and many politicians speaking out.

“I’m heartbroken,” said Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks. “They save lives, and with a snap of their fingers, the provincial government has put them on hold.”

He points to evidence that these sites do, in fact, save lives.

Just one example: more than 15,000 people have visited The Works, a supervised injection site near Yonge-Dundas Square, run by Toronto Public Health, since it opened last August. Staff reversed 213 overdoses in that time.

“I’m hoping the provincial government will reconsider this,” said Perks.

Across the city, at least one councillor disagrees.

Lucy Troisi is asking the city to stop the expansion of sites in her ward.

“Children are afraid to walk to school,” said Troisi. “Parents are afraid to actually just go for a Sunday stroll down the street. People don’t even want to invite their friends and families over. There is a significant fear factor in the neighbourhood.”

But in Parkdale, it seems the community sees the value of the supervised sites.

“At this point, I think the alternative isn’t working, people are dying,” said Motel Bar owner Daniel Greaves.

“You only have to look around you and you can see it – you can wander the alleyway and see needles,” said Parkdale Resident Peggy Lepage. “It’d be great if we could get them off the streets and into areas that are safe for everybody.”