The Moss Park OPS began as a volunteer initiative run by the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society. As of July 2018, Moss Park CTS is now run by staff of South Riverdale Community Health Centre at an indoor location in the Moss Park community. It has an exemption from Health Canada to operate, and funding from the Government of Ontario. As a satellite service, the Moss Park site assists service users to connect to the wide variety of programs and services offered at South Riverdale CHC’s 955 site, as well as many services at the site.
The site hosts a Sharing Circle on Tuesday mornings led by Les Harper, as well as a Hep C clinic, drop-in Nurse Practitioner services, and women’s support services on Thursdays, and arts and food programming on Fridays. The Moss Park site also runs a robust volunteer program, through which community members help clean up the neighbourhood, provide outreach and harm reduction education to the broader community, and put together harm reduction kits for distribution. The site also provides harm reduction supplies such as naloxone kits, safe disposal supplies and clean syringes and pipes.
Overdose rates in Toronto are continuing to increase. In 2017, there were 303 opioid overdose deaths in Toronto (across Canada over 4,000 people died). This represents a 63% increase in the deaths compared to 2016 and a 121% increase in deaths compared to 2015.
Overdose prevention and supervised injection services promote health and increase access to health and social services. Research has found that OPS and SIS/SCS/CTS attract people who face barriers to mainstream health care, promote safer injection practices, decrease injection frequency, enhance access to primary care and increase access to other health and social services (including detox and addiction treatment programs).
Consumption Treatment Services save lives. They prevent fatal overdoses, the transmission of serious diseases and offer a low barrier connection to health care and social services. Harm reduction staff including nurses are onsite to provide overdose response, medical care and referrals.
Overdose prevention and supervised injection services improve public safety by reducing issues such as public injecting and discarded needles. Studies of supervised injection services elsewhere in Canada have found no increases in drug trafficking or assaults/robbery, and a decline in vehicle break-ins/vehicle theft.
Community support for supervised consumption injection is strong. In a spring 2016 online survey completed by over 1,200 people regarding SIS implementation, 96% of respondents thought that providing small-scale SIS in Toronto would be beneficial. In March 2016, more than 50 Toronto community leaders signed a statement calling for the city to establish supervised injection services. Support for the Moss Park OPS has been enormous. The volunteer-run site received over $100,000 in financial donations, had over 150 volunteers who ran the service and received numerous in-kind donations including a food, clothing, medical supplies, tents and a trailer.
The criminalization of drug use, together with historical and ongoing structural oppression’s and the subsequent stigma and neglect of people who use drugs by our health and social service system creates multiple barriers to health and well-being for this group. The overdose crisis will not be solved by OPS or SIS or CTS alone.
The views expressed in the publication are the views of the Recipient and do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.