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Harm reduction group to open unsanctioned overdose prevention site in Parkdale

A grassroots group of drug users, healthcare workers and activists say they will open an unsanctioned overdose prevention site in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, just weeks after the province announced it would “pause” funding for future sites across the province.

The Toronto Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) announced the move in a press release Monday, saying the decision is a direct result of the Ontario government’s decision to block the opening of a legally-sanctioned site in the area.

The new Parkdale site will be housed in tents in a neighbourhood park and staffed by healthcare workers, similar to the Moss Park pop-up sitethat the group opened almost exactly one year ago. The group is not disclosing the exact location until 4 p.m. Monday evening, after which spokesperson Gillian Kolla will speak to the media.

Overdose prevention sites are approved by the province and are temporary facilities set up to address an immediate need in a community, the group says. Drug users are supervised and can access harm reduction supplies, including naloxone, along with safely disposing of used needles and other drug paraphernalia. They are a key plank of the city’s overdose action plan, which the Toronto Board of Health approved in March 2017 to prevent and respond to overdoses.

“We are in the midst of a public health crisis and we will not allow lifesaving services to be paused while Parkdale community members are dying,” said Molly Bannerman, a Toronto OPS member who lives in the area.

“We will stand together and fight against this crisis with other communities across the province.”

The announcement comes amid a spike in overdoses in the area and across the city. Toronto police issued a public safety warning last Thursday after seven people died from overdoses over the past 12 days in 14 Division, which includes south Parkdale.

Read more: Harm reduction group to open unsanctioned overdose prevention site in Parkdale

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