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Aug. 19, 2019 | Monday
Local News
Niagara region's only safe consumption site
Positive Living Niagara’s StreetWorks hopes to have permanent status by April. Christina Manocchio.

Between January 2016 and June 2018, more than 9,000 people lost their lives due to opioids in Canada. Niagara region’s only consumption site, Positive Living Niagara’s StreetWorks, is trying to combat these statistics through their programming and support.

StreetWorks is a harm redaction program that has been around for over two decades. In August 2018, the program was put on hold due to the Ontario government reviewing overdoes and prevention programing.

The program reopened on Dec. 3 and by Jan. 3, they saw 206 people who utilized the StreetWorks services. Within that month they had 10 overdoses, none of which were fatal or required a trip to the hospital.

“We're super pleased that we were able to open but this field is growing every day,” Talia Storm, manager of StreetWorks services.

The harm reduction program provides on-site support for consumption of substances, while paramedics are on site to respond to emergencies. The program aims to connect people into services and meet the client’s needs the best they can.

“Harm reduction is rooted in what that person needs and what their goals are,” said Storm. “We will meet those needs as best we can, and then refer out when we have to.”

Right now the program is only approved until the end of January, but Storm is optimistic that there is chance for extension of the program.

In the Niagara region, there was 465 suspected opioid overdoses that were responded to by EMS as of November 2018.

The current Conservative government replaced the former Liberal government's supervised consumption services and overdose prevention site models with consumption and treatment services.

“At this point it's semantics, it is essentially the same thing,” said Storm.

“In terms of what's actually offered to the clients is essentially the exact same, it's just a matter of language and funding, and governments putting their stamp on things.”

StreetWorks has an application for a permanent site with the current model, the number of approved sites is capped at 21 across the province. The Ontario government is expected to approve or deny applications by April.

Storm explained that the community and St. Catharines council has responded well to the site.

“I think everyone acknowledge that there was such a need, and we had to do something. They’ve been pleased from what we've been hearing.”