Health groups in Ontario ask Premier for change during International Overdose Awareness Day

Today will be a busy International Overdose Awareness Day for advocacy groups in Ontario as they ask the Premier to reverse a decision to 'pause' overdose prevention sites as a provincial review is conducted.

More than 100 health groups signed an open letter to Premier Doug Ford asking him to reconsider the province's stance on the sites.

Throughout the provincial campaign, Ford stated he was 'dead against' the sites, preferring a rehabilitation only approach.

CEO of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario Doris Grinspun spoke with CKTB's Tim Denis this morning. "We are asking him as we do for any other health condition, and this is a health condition Tim, that he heeds recommendations of experts in public health, front line clinicians, and harm reduction staff. This is something that is well known around the world that supervised injection sites, or supervised consumption sites as they are called, and also overdose prevention services need to be part of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy. So we cannot cut one leg off that table that is essential for people both to survive and to have possibilities for entering rehabilitation."

During the discussion, Grinspun also pointed to frightening statistics in Niagara.

"Right there in Niagara in 2017 you had in the region 76 deaths compared to 40 in 2016. That's a 40% increase right there at home."

Locally, Ford's decision to halt overdose clinics put a planned site hosted by Positive Living Niagara in St. Catharines in limbo as experts await the results of the review.

Grinspun says it is a poor decision that will cost lives and cause suffering.

"To say simply I will only support rehabilitation as our Premier is saying, and I have discussed that with him and with the Minister, is simply ignoring the evidence that you cannot treat a dead person."

International Overdose Awareness Day is marked every year on the 31st of August.