Safe Injection Sites Approved by Toronto Board of Health

Vote moves on to city council next week

22 year-old Brooke McNeil was one of the most prominent voices in support of Toronto supervised injection sites. Struggling with drug addiction herself, she advocated for insites where people could go to inject drugs safely.

Two weeks ago, — shortly before she was expected to speak in front of the Toronto Board of Health committee on the issue, McNeil died due to a drug overdose in an alley way.

It was her story, and stories alike of friends and loved ones who had passed away from drug overdoses that were heard all day Monday from Toronto residents and business owners, advocating approval of safe injection sites.

Backers are pushing for three community-based sites in Toronto: the South Riverdale Community Health Clinic, the Toronto Public Health office near Dundas and Victoria and the Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre. All three would require federal exemption under Canada’s drug laws, and backing from the city to operate.

During the meeting Monday, the Toronto Board of Health committee unanimously backed chief medical officer of health Dr. David McKeown’s recommendation to move the three sites forward. It’s now up to City Council to vote on the issue. Mayor John Tory is said to be behind the idea, though approval must be also given by Police Chief Mark Saunders.

Some argue that safe supervised injection sites encourage drug use, while many see it as a way to save lives. John McDonald, a harm reduction specialist at a homeless shelter in Thunder Bay where Brooke McNeil previously lived, believes that she’d still be alive today if there were safe injection sites in Toronto, according to The Star:

She’d still be alive if there was a safe injection site. She didn’t even really have a chance to live anywhere near a full life. Every week we’re getting emails about someone overdosing and dying. It’s going to get worse unless we have safe injections sites. They may not save everybody, but even one life — it’s worth opening them.

McNeil would have turned 23 today, July 5th.

City Council’s vote will take place next week on July 12th.

Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons