Harm Reduction Services in Ottawa

Harm reduction services, such as Ottawa Public Health's Site Needle and Syringe Program, help reduce harm to people who use drugs and also protect our community. This is done by distributing supplies (such as needles) for safer drug use, teaching about safer drug use, and referring people to other health and social services.

Site Needle and Syringe Program
The City of Ottawa's Site Needle and Syringe Program is an effective mandatory health program, which has been in operation since 1991. The availability of these programs have been deemed a necessary public health measure to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, primarily HIV and Hepatitis-C virus, and to minimize the risks associated with substance use in society.

Program information and background

Mandate of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care

Background

In the late 1980's, the rate of HIV and Hepatitis B and C infection grew to epidemic proportions among injection drug users. The Ministry of Health acknowledged the urgent need to implement harm reduction strategies to control the epidemic. The human costs, as well as the financial burden HIV infection was placing on the health-care system, were a major concern.

The Ontario Ministry of Health, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act mandated that:

"The board of health shall ensure that injection drug users can have access to sterile injection equipment by the provision of needle and syringe exchange programs as a strategy to prevent transmission of[ HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other blood-borne infections and other associated diseases in areas where drug use is recognized as a problem in the community. The strategy shall also include counselling and education and referral to primary health services and addiction/treatment services. The board of health shall produce an annual report of program activities and forward a copy to the Minister of Health

Program goals

To educate clients to reduce and avoid the risk of transmission of HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne pathogens by:
  • Increasing awareness of the risks involved in needle sharing, other drug using behaviours and unprotected sex. To enhance the skills needed to change high-risk behaviours and/or maintain low and no risk behaviours.
  • Providing accurate information on all modes of HIV transmission (including sexual transmission), testing and prevention.

Providing health education, needle exchange, and condom distribution. To encourage self-esteem in substance users and other clients and an awareness of health issues by:

  • Increasing awareness of health status regarding HIV and hepatitis B and C by offering testing.
  • Encouraging and providing hepatitis A/B and influenza vaccination.
  • Providing health education, anonymous HIV testing, confidential testing for hepatitis B and C, Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, provision of hepatitis A/B vaccine, HIV and hepatitis C counselling and partner follow-up.

To provide a supportive environment for substance users and other clients to access medical and social services by:

  • Gaining a client's trust to a point of access for meeting their service and health care needs.
  • Referring substance users to treatment, counselling services, medical and other social service supports.
  • Providing crisis counselling, referrals to community agencies and drug treatment programs.
Discarded needles in our communities

Keeping Ottawa neighbourhoods safe is our collective responsibility. In an effort to promote community safety, Ottawa Public Health, along with numerous City and community partners, has implemented a variety of measures to provide safe options for disposing of drug paraphernalia and addressing items that have been improperly discarded.

Services provided

Clinical services offered:

Naloxone take home kit training and distribution

Are you at risk of opiate overdose?

Did you know?
  • Anyone can overdose (first time and long time users, youth and older adults).
  • Fentanyl is often made as a powder and mixed with other drugs. It is also being pressed into pills. It is around 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine. This makes the risk of accidental overdose much higher.
  • There is an increased risk of overdose after a period of non-use (like being released from prison, hospital, or a treatment facility) or from a lack of access to drugs.
What can I do to reduce my overdose risks?
Here are some overdose prevention tips:
  • Avoid using alone. Fix with a friend and leave the door unlocked.
  • Avoid mixing drugs with prescription and over the counter drugs, alcohol, benzodiazepines, other opiates and/or uppers like cocaine or crack.
  • Use one drug at a time if you are mixing and take a break between drugs.
  • Inject, snort, or smoke a very small amount first to test its strength.
  • Illicit fentanyl is much more toxic than other pharmaceutical opioids
  • There is no easy way to know if fentanyl is in your drugs. You can't see it, smell it or taste it
  • Fentanyl is being cut (mixed) into both opioid and non opioid drugs
  • If you are feeling sick or under the weather, use less and be more careful.
  • Use less when your tolerance is low (like when you haven't used in three or more days).
  • Let your community agency know if you notice any changes with your drugs.
  • An overdose is a medical emergency! If you or someone else is overdosing, do not hesitate to CALL 9-1-1.
What is naloxone?
For information on Naloxone and overdoses visit the StopOverdoseOttawa.ca web page
What is involved in naloxone take home kit training?
  • Education about the drug Naloxone.
  • Overdose risk and myth information.
  • Overdose prevention training.
  • Steps on how to respond to an overdose.
How do I get a naloxone take home kit?
Just walk-in the Site office or call the Site van to get a free kit, certification and training.

You can also visit the Province of Ontario's web page to find the nearest naloxone distribution partner near you.

Supervised consumption services (SCS), Site office, Mobile van hours 

Ottawa Public Health: Harm Reduction Services-locations and hours

 Location

Day 

 Time

Telephone

Needle and Syringe Program Drop-In (including Supervised Consumption Services)  
179 Clarence St.

Monday to Friday  9 am to 5 pm 613-580-6744 ext. 29047

Site Mobile Harm Reduction Van

7 days a week 5 to 11:30 pm 

613-232-3232

Collect calls accepted

Ottawa Supervised Consumption and Treatment Services -locations and hours 

 Location

Day 

 Time

Telephone

Ottawa Public Heath – Supervised Consumption Services
179 Clarence St.

Monday to Friday  9 am to 5 pm
(last call 4:30pm)
613-580-6744 ext. 29047

Ottawa Inner City Health – ‘The Trailer’ at Shepherds of Good Hope
230 Murray St. 

7 days a week 24 hours 613-562-4500 
Sandy Hill Community Health Centre

221 Nelson St

7 days a week

8 am to 8 pm

(last call at 7 pm)
613-789-1500
Somerset West Community Health Centre

55 Eccles St

7 days a week

8:30 am to 7:30 pm

(Last call at 6:30 pm)
613-238-8210 

The results of routine and complaint-based inspections conducted for the ministry funded locations are posted on the Consumption and Treatment Services Disclosure website.

Partner agencies / Pharmacy partners
Over the past few years, accessibility of needle exchange and other harm reduction services in Ottawa have been greatly increased through partnerships with other agencies serving the same clientele.

Both Site Program and partner agency staff are alert for, and take advantage of, opportunities to educate clients on the safe use of syringes/glass stems and other drug using equipment. 

  • AIDS Committee of Ottawa 19 Main Street, 613-238-5014
  • Carlington Community Health Centre 900 Merivale Road, 613-722-4000
  • Centre 454 454 King Edward Avenue,613-235-4351
  • Centre 507 507 Bank Street, 613-233-5626
  • Centretown Community Health Centre 420 Cooper Street, 613-233-4697
  • Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa 311-211 Bronson Avenue, 613-237-7427
  • Lowertown Community Resource Centre 40 Cobourg Street 613-789-3930 
  • Max Ottawa 400 Cooper Street, Suite 9004, 613-701-6555
  • Minwaashin Lodge - STORM Van  424 Catherine Street 613-265-7558
  • Ontario Addictions Treatment Centres
    • 401 Somerset Street W. 613-233-1114
    • 1318 Carling Avenue, 613-627-0856
    • 263 Montreal Road, 613-749-9666
  • Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (OAHAS) 815 St. Laurent Blvd. 1-800-743-8851
  • Operation Come Home 150 Gloucester Street, 613-230-4663
  • OPH Site Needle and Syringe Program 179 Clarence Street, 613-234-4641 Site Van, 613-232-3232
  • Onyx Community Service 311 McArthur Avenue, 613-745-8889
  • Pinecrest-Queensway Health and Community Services 1365 Richmond Road, 2nd floor, 613-820-2001
  • Sandy Hill Community Health Centre 221 Nelson Street, 613-569-3488
  • Shepherds of Good Hope 230 Murray Street, 613-241-6494 256 King Edward Ave, 613-562-7845
  • Somerset West Community Health Centre 55 Eccles Street, 613-238-1220 NESI Mobile Van 613-761-0003
  • South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre 1355 Bank Street, suite 600, 613-737-5115
  • St. Luke's Table 760 Somerset St. W.  613-233-4786
  • Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health 299 Montreal Road Vanier, 613-748-5999
  • Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa 147 Besserer Street, 613-241-7788 ext 300

Pharmacy partners:

  • Trust Care Pharmasave  1020 St Laurent Blvd. 613-749-8577
  • Palmyra Guardian   1013 Merivale Rd.  613-729-7117
  • Parkway Pharmacy  311 McArthur Ave.  613-749-2324
  • Shoppers Drug Mart  1300 Stittsville Main Street  613-831-0901 – please speak to the pharmacist for supplies
  • Centre Town Pharmacy  326 Bank Street  613-422-2900
  • Whole Health Pharmacy Ogilvie  1150 Cadboro Rd. 613-749-7455
  • Swift Compounding Pharmacy 276 Bank St. 613-422-2202

Supervised consumption services

What are supervised consumption services?

Supervised consumption services (SCS) provide a safer, clean space for people to bring their own drugs to use, in the presence of trained staff.

Services provide access to important harm reduction, health, social and treatment services, such as (1) :

  • access to clean drug use equipment and a place to safely dispose of used items, such as needles, after use
  • emergency medical care in case of overdose, cardiac arrest or allergic reaction
  • basic health services, such as wound care and access to take-home naloxone kits
  • testing for infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • education on the harms of drug use, safer consumption practices and safer sex
  • access or referrals to treatment and addictions services
  • access or referrals to social services such as housing or employment supports
  • access or referrals to health services, including mental health services
  • access or referrals to drug checking services

Please visit Health Canada’s Supervised Consumption Sites and Services webpage to learn more. 

What are the benefits of supervised consumption services?

Supervised consumption services can help (1): 

  • prevent accidental drug overdoses and deaths;
  • reduce risk factors leading to infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis;
  • provide or connect people to health, social and treatment services;
  • reduce public drug use and discarded drug equipment; and
    • reduce strain on emergency medical services.

Please visit Health Canada’s Supervised Consumption Sites and Services webpage to learn more. 

Are supervised consumption services legal?

Yes. In Canada, supervised consumption services operate through an exemption under Section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). The exemption allows health services to operate without the risk that its clients or staff will be charged for the crime of having illegal drugs. Exemptions are granted by the federal Minister of Health in situations that are seen as "necessary for medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest" (2).

How will OPH support public and community safety the neighbourhood surrounding SCS?

OPH is working closely with Ottawa Police Services (OPS), the City of Ottawa's Corporate Security Services and Ottawa Community Housing to support safety for staff, clients, and surrounding community and is committed to continuing an ongoing dialogue with residents.
OPH will continue to monitor the situation and work alongside and in support of partners, including the people with lived experience of substance use, community members and neighbours, mental health, addictions, substance use health and social services partners, the Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force, the Ottawa Community Action Plan.
Learn more about Ottawa’s updated Overdose Response Plan which details a seven-pillar framework including a Community Safety and Wellbeing pillar.

Supervised consumption services at Ottawa Public Health

OPH has enhanced its existing harm reduction services by adding a supervised consumption service (SCS) to its existing services offered at the Site Harm Reduction program at 179 Clarence Street.

On September 22, 2017, under Section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Health Canada provided an exemption to Ottawa Public Health via the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre authorizing the operation of Supervised Injection Services (SIS) on an interim basis by Ottawa Public Health at 179 Clarence Street. On May 10, 2018, OPH was granted an exemption from the Controlled Drugs & Substance Act (CDSA) to operate a Supervised Consumption Site under the section 56.1 of the CDSA, valid for one year.

The Health Canada exemptions allow OPH to offer health services that provide a hygienic environment for people to either inject, swallow or inhale(snort) pre-obtained drugs under supervision. The supervised consumption service (SCS) is staffed with public health employees (including public health nurses, social workers and harm reduction outreach workers) with experience in harm reduction and trained and authorized to provide supervised consumption services.

OPH is working closely with Ottawa Police Services (OPS), the City of Ottawa's Corporate Security Services and Ottawa Community Housing to ensure safety for staff, clients, and the surrounding community 

How does the supervised consumption service at OPH work?
Clients arrive at the program with pre-obtained drugs. Each person is assessed to ensure they are eligible for the program. Clients are then given sterile injecting equipment or clean inhalation supplies with health teaching on safer drug use. A registered nurse supervises their consumption in a room dedicated for this purpose, and intervenes in the case of any medical emergencies. Once the clients have consumed their drugs, they are directed to a waiting area, and encouraged to stay for 15 minutes to be monitored for any medical emergency or negative drug reactions. Clients also receive information and referrals to other onsite and community health and social services. This small-scale service has 2 consumption booths and is located in the Site Harm Reduction program's existing location at 179 Clarence Street. The Site program and the supervised consumption service are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The SCS is staffed by public health nurses, social workers, and harm reduction outreach workers trained in supervised consumption and overdose response, substance use health and harm reduction.
Are other supervised injection/consumption services operating in Ottawa?

There are four sites currently providing supervised consumption services in Ottawa and three of these sites are provincially designated as a Consumption and Treatment Service (CTS). Ottawa Public Health operates a SCS site (located at 179 Clarence St.) and he three other CTSs are offered at:

  • Ottawa Inner City Health - Trailer
  • Sandy Hill Community Health Centre
  • Somerset West Community Health Centre

All four services in Ottawa are operating under exemptions from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). 

Why do we need supervised consumption services in Ottawa?
The overdose crisis, with the increasingly toxic and unpredictable unregulated drug supply, continues to have devastating impacts on people, their families, friends and the community. To learn more about the situation in Ottawa, how we can address this complex crisis together, and where harm reduction and treatments services and supports are available please visit StopOverdoseOttawa.ca.
Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) Compliance and Enforcement Protocol

Learn more about the Ottawa Public Health’s role under the provincial Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) Compliance and Enforcement Protocol.

The results of routine and complaint-based inspections conducted for the ministry funded locations are posted on the Consumption and Treatment Services Disclosure website. 

Questions, Feedback or Concerns related to Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS)?
Questions, Feedback or Concerns about Infection Control or Safety and Security issues directly related to a local CTS location:
  • Members of the public can submit questions, feedback or concerns to the Ottawa Public Health online through our complaints and feedback form or by calling 613-580-6744.

Questions, Feedback or Concerns about Public Safety

  • In case of an emergency or crime in progress, call 911;
  • For a non-emergency situation requiring a mobile police response, members of the public can contact Ottawa Police Service at 613-236-1222;
  • To file a non-emergency police report, the public can file a report online or by calling the non-emergency line at 613-236-1222, extension 7300.
  • For more information visit Ottawa Police Services.

If there is feedback or a concern about a supervised consumption service that isn’t captured by the CTS compliance protocol, you can contact the organization providing the service directly and speak to a member of their team.

References

1. Health Canada- Supervised consumption sites and services – Canada.ca

2. Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. (S.C. 1996, c.19).  

 

StopOverdoseOttawa.ca
StopOverdoseOttawa.ca

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