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Overdose Prevention Ottawa announce closure of supervised injection site

Unsanctioned site has served more than 3,500 people since opening in August.

Supporters of OPO gathered outside City Hall on Friday, September 29.

Kieran Delamont / Metro Order this photo

Supporters of OPO gathered outside City Hall on Friday, September 29.

Volunteers with Overdose Prevention Ottawa, who have operated an unsanctioned supervised injection site in Raphael Brunet Park for the last two and half months, announced Tuesday they will be closing down this week.

“We are going to redirect our efforts to address other failings in the healthcare system throughout Ottawa,” said the group in a statement. “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.”

With the opening of the supervised injection site run by Inner City Health in a trailer outside of Shepherds of Good Hope, which began offering 24-hour services on Tuesday, the group says it was time for a “reconsideration” of their services. 

In their statement, they said that they will remain active in their advocacy, though there were no further specifics given. 

The site will continue to operate for the time being until a specific closure date can be determined.

The announcement comes after a particularly difficult stretch for the group, who had been forced to close twice due to inclimate weather, and had an offer of provincial help apparently blocked by the city. 

That stretch had taken its toll; in recent weeks several volunteers spoke about feeling burnt out, exhausted, and unsupported by the city. There is also the issue of manpower, as a number of those working at the site are slated to be involved with the trailer at Inner City Health. 

The group a parting shot at public officials who they had quarelled with in the press recently over the long-term future of the site.

“Particularly reprehensible are the actions of Mayor Jim Watson, Coun. Mathieu Fleury, and Minister of Health Dr. Eric Hoskins,” they wrote, “who profess to take action to address the overdose emergency in one breath and then deny services to people who use drugs in another.” 

The mayor's press secretary, Livia Belcea, said in an email that "Mayor Watson is pleased to see that harm reduction volunteers and service providers are working collaboratively. Mayor Watson is also pleased that the Raphael Burnet park will be returned to the residents."

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