Hamilton could see as many as 3 supervised injection sites

Hamilton has gone from scrambling to find space for even one supervised injection site to being in the running for as many as three of them.

Most opioid overdose calls are for men, report says, and the average age is 37

There are several plans for supervised drug consumption sites in Hamilton. (CBC)

Hamilton has gone from scrambling for even one supervised injection site to being in the running for as many as three of them.

Two community agencies — De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre and Wesley Urban Ministries — have applied to the federal health minister for a permanent supervised site for drug users, say public health officials. Wesley hopes to have a mobile unit, while De dwa da dehs nye>s is eyeing a location in the central lower city.

Urban Core Community Health Centre, which is currently operating a temporary site with the Shelter Health Network, will also apply to have a permanent site at Cannon Street East and Wentworth Street North.

That means Hamilton could have two, or even three, supervised consumption options, said Michelle Baird, director of epidemiology, wellness and communicable disease at Hamilton Public Health.

Baird said the plan was always for Hamilton to have more than one site. This is especially true given that Hamilton's rate of opioid overdoses is 15.3 people for every 100,000 residents.

The projects are in the early stages, Baird said, and the agencies are still working out what those services will look like.

"Certainly they could operate at different hours," Baird said. "They could operate in different ways."

It's a much brighter outlook than what existed two weeks ago, when providers couldn't seem to find space.

The city asked Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton to host a site, and both organizations declined. Both said they have limited space, and that "co-location" with addiction withdrawal services and children's health care wasn't a good fit.

Temporary site until November

Coun. Jason Farr said there are no hard feelings.

The organizations "took very seriously council's request," Farr said during a board of health meeting Thursday. And "I am, at least, very understanding of their response."

Urban Core will submit its application soon, said executive director Denise Brooks. The temporary site opened in June and has enough money for six months.

In the first month, Brooks said, there were 112 visits to the temporary site.

Wesley didn't comment on its project Thursday, saying the proposal is still in the planning stage. De dwa da dehs nye>s submitted its application May 10, and is still the only one listed on the federal government's website.

71% of overdose calls are male

If De dwa da dehs nye>s is successful, said executive director Constance McKnight, it will be one of Canada's first Indigenous-focused supervised consumption sites.

Dick Passmore, De dwa da dehs nye>s navigation services liaison, said he has "great faith and confidence" the site will make a difference.

"It will be culturally safe for the Indigenous community as well as being welcoming for everyone else," he said. "And those who are looking at recovery, they can get access (to services) through us."

Hamilton's overdose rate is 72 per cent higher than Ontario's. In 2017, 87 Hamiltonians died from opioid overdoses.

From January to May this year, Hamilton paramedics answered 590 opioid-related calls. Seventy-one per cent were male. The average age was 37.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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