An unsanctioned overdose prevention site popped up in Toronto’s Moss Park over the weekend and its organizers are seeking long-term support of the city and police force in an effort to help tackle the current opioid crisis. Relations between the organizers and police over the weekend were described as “cordial and respectful,” by Matt Johnson of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance, who also told CBC that negotiations with police to continue to operate are “being worked on.”
The pop-up tent allowed people to use illicit durgs such as cocaine and heroin with clean materials, while stocking the life-saving anti-overdose medication naloxone in case of an instance of a user consuming the deadly drug fentanyl. Fentanyl has been found in various street drugs all over North America, and is at the centre of a sharp rise in overdose-related deaths.
Toronto police allowed the site to remain open on Saturday after it was set up. The Moss Park tent served 15 people on its first day. While it was a successful start for organizers, the site remains subject to closure without an emergency declaration by the province of Ontario.
“We can’t keep doing this day-to-day approval thing,” Leigh Chapman, a nurse who volunteered at the site told CBC. “We’re trying to build trust and connections so people don’t overdose alone in an alley somewhere.”
Despite the use of illegal drugs on site, Toronto police have effectively ruled the opioid crisis a greater concern by allowing volunteers to serve those looking for a safe injection space.