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Health Canada approves Toronto application for interim supervised drug-use site

A naloxone anti-overdose kit is shown in Vancouver, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Health Canada announced Sunday that it has approved an application by Toronto Public Health to open a supervised injection site several months earlier than anticipated.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Health Canada announced Sunday that it has approved an application by Toronto Public Health to open a supervised injection site several months earlier than anticipated.

An "interim supervised injection site" will open for service on Monday, Aug. 21 in the same building as the planned permanent site, which is currently under renovation.

"Supervised consumption sites save lives and improve health without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding area," Health Canada said in a statement.

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Three permanent supervised injection sites were set to open in the city this fall. But harm reduction experts say those plans were made years ago, before the opioid crisis was as severe as it is now.

"I think it's safe to assume, given what's happening, that there may be a need for more than just the three that have been proposed," Jason Altenberg, program director at Toronto's South Riverdale Community Health Centre, said last month, after a weekend that saw four deaths and over 20 overdoses in the city's downtown core.

Last week, harm reduction workers began setting up an unsanctioned supervised injection site in Toronto's Moss Park, saying the space is needed as the city grapples with a string of overdoses and suspected overdose deaths.

There are supervised injection sites currently running in Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna, Kamloops, and Montreal. Clinics are under review in many other Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton.

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