OPS & SCS Save Lives - Government Support is Crucial: Open Letter to Christine Elliott

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August 21, 2018

Hon. Christine Elliott
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

Re: Saving Lives in the Opioid Poisoning Crisis in Ontario

Dear Minister Elliott,

In 2017, Ontario lost 1,263 family members, friends, colleagues, and community members to opioid poisoning (overdose)--that’s one Ontarian every 7 hours, an alarming 46% rise from 2016.[1] These are preventable deaths.

Key to preventing deaths are supervised consumption services (SCS) and overdose prevention sites (OPS).  Since the first one opened in 1986, no one has died of an overdose in any of these facilities ever, world-wide. In response to the increasing death toll in Ontario in 2017, communities opened OPS and SCS as proven responses to overdose death prevention. Across Ontario, communities are saving lives daily through these services, and your support is crucial to ensuring this lifesaving continues throughout this public health emergency. 

We need your help to build on these community efforts to save lives, and to improve the health of families, communities, and people who use drugs. There has been extensive, peer-reviewed research that they also reduce the spread of infectious disease, are a necessary part of continuum of care, reduce costs to health systems, including fewer paramedic calls and emergency department visits, and increase uptake of substance use treatment and other services. People who use SCS and OPS programs can tell you why these services should be supported, and so can their loved ones.

Improvements must be made to the funding and approval processes for overdose prevention sites in particular.  The model approved under the previous government is unsustainable. Timelines need to be longer-term, and funding stabilized. 

All Ontario SCS and OPS are located in communities where opioid death rates demonstrate critical need for overdose prevention. You recognized that the London OPS was saving lives in a community hard-hit by the crisis, however other communities continue to be devastated too. Three such communities are able to open OPS and start saving lives immediately and we implore you to allow them to do so. 

Lives are saved on the spot when people use drugs under supervision. Lives are saved over the long-term as people work with staff over time to improve their stability, health and well-being. While there are many benefits of OPS and SCS programs, saving lives is the most critical now.   Your support for these services is vital.


Ontario Overdose Prevention Sites and Supervised Consumption Services


[1] Public Health Ontario. Opioid-related morbidity and mortality in Ontario. August 14, 2018. http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/dataandanalytics/pages/opioid.aspx#/trends