Ontario needs another month for review of overdose prevention sites

The Ontario government says it needs another month to determine if overdose prevention sites will continue to operate in the province.

The Progressive Conservatives paused the planned openings of several sites this summer as they conducted a review to determine the fate of such facilities.

The government had previously said it would announce a decision by the end of September but Community Services Minister Lisa MacLeod says the province needs another month to work on its review.

MacLeod says the province is grappling with an opioid crisis but must do its due diligence on the matter.

Health Minister Christine Elliott has said she has received data on the sites, held consultations on the issue and is in the process of finalizing her recommendations.

On Monday, groups advocating for the sites planted rows of crosses on the grounds of Ontario’s legislature to represent those who died as a result of overdoses.

“We have come to remind the government of what is at stake with their current ‘review,’ and commemorate the much-loved members of our community that we have lost,” the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society said in a statement. “The continued lack of government action shows a callous disregard for the lives of people in Ontario.”

Overdose prevention sites are approved by the province following a federal decision to grant an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. They are temporary facilities set up to address an immediate need in a community.

Safe injection sites, meanwhile, are more permanent locations approved by the federal government after a more extensive application process.

More than 100 health groups issued an open letter to the province in late August, saying the government’s review of overdose prevention sites was “unnecessary” and a moratorium on opening such facilities was troubling.