The sites still require federal approval.
The provincial funding comes at a critical time. Opioids have become a pressing concern across North America as overdose deaths have skyrocketed over the past decade. Medical practitioners have urged the federal government to declare opioid use a public emergency, a move that British Columbia has already made. In one day in December, 13 people in B.C. died from overdoses.
While Council approved three supervised injection sites in July 2016 by a 36–3 vote, the City required provincial funding and federal approval. The City requested $400,000 in capital funding and $1.8 million in operating funding for the clinics. It is not known how much the Province will fund at this time.
Although supervised injection sites have been around for 30 years and are legal in Canada, Vancouver remains the only city in Canada that currently operates any.
The sites, which are backed by extensive medical research, have earned broad political support at Toronto City Council. Rookie councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) has led the way on the issue, with strong support from Mayor John Tory. The rhetoric from city hall has been to treat opioid addiction as a health issue rather than a matter for police.
While there’s broad political support for supervised injection sites, stigmas still exist. The City maintains a website to dispel myths and answer frequently asked questions about supervised injection sites.
With funding in place, the three Toronto clinics require setup before an inspection and approval by the federal government can take place.