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Ontario Health Centres Vote to Unanimously Support the Development of Supervised Injection Services in the Province

RICHMOND HILL, ON, June 8, 2016 – Members of the Association of Ontario Health Centres voted unanimously at the AOHC Annual General Meeting on June 7 to adopt a resolution in support of Supervised Injection Services (SIS), which calls on all levels of government to aid efforts to expand harm reduction services in the face of a growing overdose epidemic in communities across the province.

“This resolution is about our rights as Canadian citizens to have the choice of promoting and protecting both individual rights to life, liberty and security of the person, and the health and security of the broader public,” said David Gibson, Executive Director of Sandy Hill Community Health Centre (CHC) in Ottawa, who moved that the resolution be adopted.

“ ‘Drug addiction is not a moral choice. It is an illness that essentially negates the notion of choice altogether.’ Those were the words written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in 2011,” Gibson continued. “This resolution is about our united courage to act, our collective courage to speak out, and our commitment to offer hope and a new opportunity to the people of Ontario.”

“ ‘Just Say No’ is not good enough anymore,” Gibson concluded. “Not when people’s lives are at stake.”

Lynne Raskin, Executive Director of South Riverdale CHC in Toronto, echoed Gibson’s comments while seconding the motion: “We are talking about an opportunity to impact the health and lives of people who are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, neighbours and colleagues.” She went on to cite the many benefits of SIS, included reduced numbers of overdose deaths, better uptake of detox services, and reduced costs and impact on the surrounding community.

“The South Riverdale CHC Board and staff support this resolution,” Raskin concluded, “because lives that have yet to be lost depend on it.”

The wider discussion of SIS and how to effect policy changes in Ontario continues today, June 8, at the AOHC’s annual conference, with Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, being presented the Community Health Champion Award. The award is being presented during a panel discussion on harm reduction and SIS, for which Dr. McKeown has been a staunch advocate in the GTA. Besides McKeown and Raskin, other members of the panel include:

  • Marc-Andre Hermanstyne, Board Member at Queen West, Central Toronto Community Health Centre, and creator of harm reduction programs for Black communities
  • Rob Boyd, Oasis Program Director at Sandy Hill Community Health Centre in Ottawa
  • Raffi Balian, Founder and Program Coordinator, COUNTERfit Harm Reduction Program in Toronto, and Raffi identifies as a person who injects drugs

Full text of the AOHC and its members’ resolution on SIS: “The AOHC and its members call on the Ontario Premier, the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and provincial opposition leaders, as well as the Prime Minister and federal opposition leaders and Ontario municipal mayors to publicly acknowledge and support the evidence-based health service called Supervised Injection Services and to support the opening of such services across the Province of Ontario that can demonstrate the need consistent with the Supreme Court ruling.”

Background: A supervised injection service (SIS) is a health service that provides a safe and hygienic environment where people can inject pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of trained staff. In Canada, nurses provide this supervision. The first SIS opened 30 years ago in Switzerland, and there are now 90 SIS sites worldwide. In Ontario, community health centres in Ottawa and Toronto are working to implement SIS, and needs assessments are underway in London and Thunder Bay. SIS programs have been proven in peer-reviewed studies in Canada and worldwide to: reduce the number of overdose deaths, increase the rate of uptake of detox and addiction services, and help to create safer communities.

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CONTACT INFO:
To arrange an interview with David Gibson, Lynne Raskin, or experts from the SIS panel, please contact:

Jason Rehel
416-817-9518
jason.rehel@aohc.org

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