Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Increase access to SIS and OPS to save lives

Over 2,800 people have already responded to RNAO’s action alert urging Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott to immediately approve and fund existing and new sites that provide supervised injection services and overdose prevention services. We know these services save lives.

According to figures from the government of Ontario, there were at least 1,261 deaths across the province in 2017 attributed to opioid poisoning. That’s an increase of 45 per cent over the previous year when 867 deaths were recorded. Between January and March 2018, there were 320 deaths in the province. Despite the dedication and efforts of many health professionals, peer workers, and community volunteers, the death toll continues to rise.

There is robust evidence that supervised injection services (SIS) and overdose prevention services (OPS) are an important part of a comprehensive response to drug use. Both SIS and OPS allow people to inject drugs under the supervision of trained registered nurses and other health workers who provide sterile supplies, overdose prevention and management, as well as other health and social support services.

Given the scale of the opioid poisoning crisis, Health Canada announced in Dec. 2017 that it would grant exemptions to the province of Ontario, allowing temporary OPS sites to operate. Although eight SIS and eight OPS are operating and saving lives across the province, on July 24, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced her ministry was putting these services under review "to see if they have merit and are worth continuing."

On Sept. 28, the government announced that it was still in “the process of finalizing” recommendations on the fate of sites offering supervised injection services (SIS) and overdose prevention services (OPS). Knowing that the federal exemption was due to expire on Sept. 30, Ontario asked for, and was immediately granted, a six month extension. Nurses say that’s not good enough, because delayed action means three new temporary OPS sites in Thunder Bay, St. Catharines, and Toronto are prohibited from opening their doors despite being ready. Five other OPS applications have been stalled, while communities across the province need urgent help to address the escalating death toll.

Ontario’s RNs, NPs, and nursing students say the government needs to address the overdose crisis by immediately delivering a decision on SIS and OPS that will enable current sites to continue operating, and increase the number of sites where they are needed most. Just as you wouldn't put chemotherapy clinics on pause to examine the evidence, it is unethical to deny health services to Ontarians at risk of dying from opioid poisoning.

We urge you to: • Sign the action alert below addressed to Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott • Share this action alert with your networks and urge them to sign and send it to others. The opioid crisis is viral, let’s go viral with our urgent call for action!

Copies will be sent to:

  • Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
  • Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition
  • John Fraser, Interim Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
  • Michael Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario
  • France Gélinas, NDP Health Critic
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