06/02/2017 06:34 EDT | Updated 06/03/2017 07:31 EDT

3 Safe Injection Sites To Open In Toronto

"Supervised injection services have been effective in other communities," says John Tory.

TORONTO — Health Canada has approved three supervised injection sites in Toronto, and local officials expect they will be operational be the end of the year.

Necessary exemptions from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act have been granted for the clinics to operate, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said Friday in a news release.

The sites will allow people to use illicit drugs under the supervision of a medical professional and will all be located in central Toronto. They will be based at Toronto Public Health's The Works near Yonge and Dundas, the South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Leslieville and the Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre.

Philpott said that Canadian and international evidence shows that supervised injection sites save lives without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding area. They are part of the government's approach to combating the current overdose epidemic, she said.

An injection kit is shown at Insite, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, on May 6, 2008. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Bill C-37, which became law last month, streamlined the application process for the sites by reducing the information burden on applicants and speeding up the application and renewal processes.

The sites provide sterile equipment, information about drugs, basic health care and addiction treatment referrals.

"No single action is going to put an end to the mounting number of overdoses occurring across the country, and it is crucial that we work together and continue to explore new ways to help us reverse the course of this crisis,'' Philpott said.

Toronto Public Health said in an email that work is well underway to launch a permanent supervised injections services site at it's main office and it had received confirmation on Thursday.

Justin Hall injects heroin at the Crosstown Clinic in downtown Vancouver on Jan. 12, 2017. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)

"We understand that an inspection of the supervised injection site may be required by Health Canada before the doors for this health services can open,'' Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffee said.

"We anticipate that the sites will open by the end of December 2017,'' she said.

The Ontario government announced in January that it was committed to funding three supervised injection sites in Toronto and one in Ottawa and Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Friday the province is investing $3.5 million in the Toronto sites, which will be the first in the province.

"Any loss of life as a result of an opioid overdose is a needless, preventable tragedy,'' Hoskins said. "We will continue to support communities across Ontario as we take continued action in response to the opioid crisis and help keep Ontarians safe.''

"Any loss of life as a result of an opioid overdose is a needless, preventable tragedy." —Health Minister Eric Hoskins

Toronto Mayor John Tory noted that the safe injection sites are only one part of the solution.

"Supervised injection services have been effective in other communities in preventing death, illicit drug use and in reducing health risks,'' Tory said. "The steadily increasing number of lives lost due to drug overdoses is a human tragedy and cannot be acceptable to anyone in a caring city such as ours.''

Last month, Health Canada approved plans to create four supervised injection sites — two in Surrey, B.C., one in Vancouver and a mobile consumption site in Montreal.

In February, the health agency authorized three supervised injection sites in Montreal, adding to two existing drug injection sites in Vancouver.

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