The provincial government has approved a new consumption and treatment services site for Kitchener, bringing the total number of approved sites in Ontario to 16.
The Kitchener facility, the first of its kind for the Waterloo Region, opened its doors Oct. 15 and received approval for permanent funding the same day. The site is a result of joint efforts between the Region of Waterloo’s Public Health and Emergency Services, Sanguen Health Centre and other partners.
Ontario has been facing an increase in the harms related to opioids, with growing numbers of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and fatal overdoses. Opioids have become the leading cause of death for people aged 30 to 39 in Canada. The latest data from Public Health Ontario revealed 1,473 people died from opioid-related causes in 2018 in Ontario, a 17 per cent increase since 2017. Of these, an estimated 53 died in Waterloo Region in 2018, and 86 in 2017. As of August 2019, 46 people were estimated to have died already this year in the Waterloo Region.
Consumption and treatment services provide safe spaces for people to use substances in a monitored and hygienic environment, reducing harms related to overdose, disease transmission, infections and public substance use. The sites provide connections to medical attention, counselling and social services for people living with substance use challenges. They are based in a harm reduction framework, an evidence-based approach to addressing the potential harms related to substance use, which research shows results in long-term savings for the health care system.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division is supportive of the consumption and treatment services model introduced by the provincial government, particularly the move to strengthen ties to community-based agencies that provide wraparound supports. As part of the larger initiative to help fight opioid overdoses, CMHA Ontario has developed a naloxone toolkit, an easy-to-understand resource to help organizations and individuals identify signs of an opioid overdose and deliver potentially life-saving naloxone.