There is a new push for Toronto to have safe injection sites and it's coming from the city's chief medical officer of health. But before it can get federal approval, there must be a consultation process in the communities where sites are proposed.
Toronto joins a growing list of cities in Canada and the U.S. that plan to set up safe injection sites, a place for people take illicitly-obtained drugs while under the supervision of a health care worker to prevent overdoses.
A coalition of public health groups in New York want the state to consider allowing heroin users to inject themselves in just such supervised settings. There are 90 safe injections sites worldwide, but in Canada there are only two, both in Vancouver.
Toronto's medical officer of health, David McKeown, wants to open multiple locations, possibly at existing health care facilities. McKeown says research shows the sites save lives, reduce overdoses and limit the spread of blood-borne diseases.
"Research has also shown that there are benefits for the community, that they reduce the public drug use and discarded needles associated with injection drug use and, in fact they do not increase criminal activity in the areas where they are located," McKeown said.
Annual overdose rates in Toronto are reported to be higher than ever. McKeown's report suggests a 41% increase in reported overdoses from 2002 to 2013.
Public meetings are planned in Toronto on safe injection sites, but final approval rests with the federal government in Ottawa which must grant an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.