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OPO left waiting for provincial cold-weather support

The province met with both Overdose Prevention Ottawa and a similar group in Toronto in recent weeks, but so far only Toronto is getting support to deal with colder weather

A shot inside the tent at OPO's pop-up overdose prevention site in Lowertown.

Marilou Gagnon

A shot inside the tent at OPO's pop-up overdose prevention site in Lowertown.

Overdose Prevention Ottawa is calling on the province to dispatch the Emergency Management Assistance Team (EMAT) to their supervised injection site in Raphael Brunet Park, after it announced that it would send the team, with equipment to heat the tent, to a similar site in Toronto. 

The EMAT is a provincial health unit that provides extra help to communities or organization dealing with health crises. 

The province confirmed that they met with both OPO and the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society approximately two weeks ago, when both organizations asked for assistance to help get through the cold weather. 

On Wednesday evening, the Toronto group announced the province would be setting up a heated tent at their site. But the Ottawa site, which has had to close twice this week alone due to inclimate weather, will have to wait. 

“We’ve heard from Ottawa as well that they would like interim support,” said Laura Gallant, press secretary for Health Minister Eric Hoskins. She said that “conversations are ongoing,” and that they were working to “make sure that everyone is informed and aligned on providing resources.” 

The past week or so has offered up the biggest challenge to the group. Not only have steady wind and rain forced them to remain closed twice, but their visitor numbers have regularly soared into the triple digits over the past week. In total, the site has been used over 3,000 times. 

Gallant said that more information would be coming in the near future, but for the meantime asked OPO to hang tight.

“As you can appreciate, this is a very dynamic issue,” she said. She reiterated, though, that the priority level was “equal for Toronto and Ottawa.”

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