Feds help keep Ottawa supervised injection site open

The federal government has stepped in to help fund one of Ottawa's supervised injection sites after the provincial government cut its funding earlier this year. 

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced the government would provide $600,000, or about six months funding, for the Clarence Street site.

Andrew Hendriks, director of health protection for Ottawa Public Health, said the new funding combined with money found in the public health budget will keep the site open until at least the end of this year.

The Progressive Conservative government announced a review of supervised injection sites in Ontario shortly after coming to power last year.

In March, it announced the ByWard Market site run by Ottawa Public Health was one of several other sites across the province that wouldn't get any money this year.

Ottawa's three other sites are getting provincial money.

The province said at the time it wanted the sites to provide more services than simply a safe place to inject and renamed them consumption and treatment services sites.

It also cited the close proximity of the Clarence Street site to another facility on King Edward Avenue run by Inner City Health.  

Open until December, at least

Petitpas Taylor said she believes the sites are valuable.

"We restored harm reduction as a key pillar in our drug strategy," she said.

"I have seen first-hand that supervised injection sites save lives."

Trevor Pritchard/CBC

The Clarence Street site was the second busiest in the city, according to data from the end of 2018.

Hendriks said it has seen nearly 15,000 visits, served more than 500 people and nurses have intervened in more than 200 overdoses since it opened in September 2017. 

He said their facility is needed despite being a few streets away from the site at the Shepherds of Good Hope.

"We have two consumption booths and we are seeing the maximum number of people that we can in our 12 hours they we're operating," he said.

The Inner City Health site nearby, he said, saw 55,000 visits in 2018 and prevented more than 500 overdoses.

Demand on Clarence didn't drop when the King Edward site opened in November 2017.