Statement - Supervised Injection services in Toronto

Preventing overdose deaths should be a top public health priority for our City. Over the last 10 years, we have seen a 77% increase in the number of deaths due to overdose – from 146 in 2004 to 258 in 2014.  The numbers are staggering, but behind the numbers are people. They are our friends and neighbours, our sisters and brothers, and our colleagues.  They work at Tim Hortons and on Bay Street.

We need a public health response that will save lives, improve the health of people who use drugs, and make our communities safer. Supervised injection services will do just that.

The Medical Officer of Health, in a report released today, is recommending that the Board of Health, and then City Council, formally approve moving ahead with implementing supervised injection services at three sites in the City of Toronto. A final City Council decision will be made at the July Council meeting.  

During months of consultation by the three sites – Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre, Toronto Public Health-The Works, and South Riverdale Community Health Centre – communities engaged in important conversations about harm reduction. We heard from residents, businesses, service agencies, and people who use drugs.  The feedback was clear – drug use is already in our backyards and it's time to develop a model to improve public health and public safety.  

Supervised injection services work. In more than 90 sites around the world, including 2 in Vancouver, they have proven to improve the health of people who use drugs and increase public safety in surrounding neighbourhoods.

Today's report makes it clear – Toronto is ready to embrace an evidence-based approach to drug policy. An evidence-based approach to reduce harm and save lives.

Drug use is complicated and requires a comprehensive response that includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.  The introduction of supervised injection services in Toronto represents our response to the growing overdose crisis, and a bold statement in our ongoing efforts to care for every resident of our city.