STATEMENT: OPO transitioning to the second phase of advocacy and service delivery.

It is with heavy hearts that Overdose Prevention Ottawa share that we are closing the service we have provided on the patch of grass located at 307 St. Patrick Street since August 25, 2017. In over two months, we have had 3445 visits, reversed five overdoses with naloxone, and prevented hundreds more through various interventions, including enhanced monitoring, providing a safe space for people to consume drugs, to be able to take their time, and experience connection and belonging within the community.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa provided the first public safe space in our city for people to use drugs, primarily through injection and inhalation. At that time, there were no harm reduction services that provided a space for people to safely consume drugs. We have built relationships of trust with people, the building blocks of healing deep wounds. Every day, our guests tell us that they and their friends are alive because of our services.

In just over two months, we have accomplished much to make our city safer for people who use drugs, to combat stigma and criminalization, and fix some of the many gaps in the healthcare system. For 74 days, we have operated without any support from any level of government. It is only through the tireless efforts of our more than 200 volunteers, and through the donations of thousands of private supporters were we able to stand up where our government had failed so many. It is shameful that so many individuals have had to sacrifice so much to fix that failing. But it is also truly inspiring to see the love, the compassion, and unwavering support of our neighbours in the face of this emergency. We have created a powerful community of advocates and we will continue to use that strength to both demand and actively build a better city for everyone.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa has been successful in our mission to bring accessible, safer consumption services to the area of our city most affected by the overdose emergency. Thanks to our efforts, there are now two supervised injection services operating within two blocks of our site. Although they operate in distinct ways from Overdose Prevention Ottawa, their openings warrant a reconsideration of the need for our services in Lowertown. Through our dedicated service and our advocacy, we have forced harm reduction service providers to respond, and have helped pave a path towards a more equitable healthcare system, one that treats drug users with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Now, we are going to redirect our efforts to address other failings in the healthcare system throughout Ottawa. For that reason, we will be closing the 307 St. Patrick overdose prevention site this week and transitioning to the second phase of advocacy and service delivery. We will continue to monitor and respond to the needs for overdose prevention services throughout the City of Ottawa and take steps to ensure the health and well-being of those who are most at risk of preventable death.

Along with our guests and volunteers, we are angry and ashamed by the responses by each level of government to this ongoing emergency. Overdose Prevention Ottawa operated its service less than two kilometres from Parliament Hill and City Hall, where local and national decisions that, for many people, can mean life or death. Despite that proximity, governments continue to operate largely according to business as usual. Particularly reprehensible are the actions of Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Mathieu Fleury, and Minister of Health Dr. Eric Hoskins who profess to take action to address the overdose emergency in one breath and then deny services to people who use drugs in another. Canada is facing a preventable health emergency that is driven by prohibition, criminalization, and stigma. We will continue to demand action from federal, provincial, and municipal governments.  These same levels of government and harm reduction organizations have benefitted from Overdose Prevention Ottawa providing this service and doing their work for them.

Significant changes have taken place over the past two months, but much still needs to be done. Safer inhalation services, like the kind provided by Overdose Prevention Ottawa, are an essential and currently lacking service in this city. We have long known that the government and health and social services abandon and criminalize people who use drugs. Overdose Prevention Ottawa stepped in to care for the community. Since these structures have not provided meaningful support for Overdose Prevention Ottawa. They are again abandoning people who use drugs.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa is not going anywhere. We will remain engaged in overdose prevention work and advocacy. We have thrived because of this shared understanding from our supporters and the community. For that, Overdose Prevention Ottawa is forever grateful. We have made long-lasting connections, saved lives and made history together. And we will continue to do so, together.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa

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One thought on “STATEMENT: OPO transitioning to the second phase of advocacy and service delivery.”

  1. Shame on Ottawa and our Prime Minister for not standing up for Harm Reduction in this crisis not proud of our Country’s Leaders today. I pray that no one in your family needs someone to save their life from an overdose. Quote “But for the grace of god go I “.

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