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CHATTER: St. Stephen’s safe-injection site loses provincial funding (May 2019

May 28th, 2019 · No Comments

Funding cuts announced by the province in April will likely mean safe-injection sites such as St. Stephen’s (pictured above) may shutter. NABAHAT HUSSAIN/GLEANER NEWS

On April 1, the provincial government, led by Premier Doug Ford, announced they would keep funding fifteen overdose prevention sites in the province, while cutting funding for three. St. Stephen’s Community House in Kensington Market located on Augusta Avenue is one of the two sites at risk of closure in Toronto. 

The sites are run with the permission of Health Canada but are not sustainable without funding. Executive director Bill Sinclair says St. Stephen’s will keep running six days a week until mid-July thanks to $65,000 in donations. 

On April 18, the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society donated $20,000 to St. Stephen’s Community House and Street Health Community Nursing located on Dundas Street.  However, Sinclair says St. Stephen’s will need $175,000 to keep running until next May.

Kensington Market residents gathered at a protest in front of the establishment on April 5 and many of them wrote in support of St. Stephen’s. “St. Stephen’s has made a positive impact on our community,” says Adam Clare, board member of the Kensington Market Action Committee. “We need this site in our community and we welcome it.”

Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa says that too many people are dying of preventable deaths related to overdose. “The reality is that we need more of these evidence-based life-saving services, not fewer.” De Villa conducted a TED talk earlier this year, speaking about the opioid crisis. 

Sinclair claimed St. Stephen’s staff were able to save 10 lives from overdose last year. He puts emphasis on a drug called Naloxone which can be used to save a person from an overdose death. People can come to St. Stephen’s to learn how to use it and are able buy it from any pharmacy. “We’re recommending that work places, public places, and schools all have it, everyone has the ability to prevent overdoses,” he says. Provincial minister of health spokesperson Hayley Chazan refused to comment on concerns about lives that might be lost due to the closure of overdose prevention sites. 

St. Stephen’s has re-submitted their application for funding to the province. To support St. Stephen’s Community House, donations are welcome at www.sschto.ca.

—Nabahat Hussain, Gleaner News

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