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Update:

Somerset West Community Health Centre has been granted an emergency exemption and has opened a temporary outdoor consumption and treatment service.

March 15, 2024 (Ottawa) — Somerset West Community Health Centre is pleased to share that we have been granted an emergency exemption by Health Canada under Section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This exemption from the act allows us to open a temporary consumption and treatment service (CTS) in our enclosed outdoor courtyard today. This is the same exemption granted to open our indoor temporary overdose prevention site in 2018, consumption and treatment service in 2019 and to open a temporary outdoor CTS during the pandemic. We thank Health Canada for moving so quickly on this exemption.

Starting this morning, our neighbours can bring pre-obtained drugs to pop, snort or inject under the supervision of medical staff. The staff does not supply drugs. This temporary outdoor service will remain open until the indoor CTS can reopen. The hours of the outdoor CTS are the same as they were indoors.

All other programs and services at Somerset West Community Health Centre remain fully operational, including all other harm reduction services.

 

Background

During the week of February 26, there were two instances of harmful fumes coming from drugs that were heated in the consumption and treatment service at Somerset West Community Health Centre. 

These fumes caused staff to experience nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Everyone has recovered and is fine. These incidents were the only two incidents in the five years since our CTS opened. The health and safety of our staff and clients remain our top priority.

SWCHC proactively reached out to the Ministries of Labour and Health, and Ottawa Public Health to inform and seek guidance. The Ministry of Labour has visited SWCHC. We are working with all three to find solutions. Our investigation is ongoing.

We recognized that temporarily closing the CTS would have an impact on our clients and community. We did our best to minimize this impact by redeploying CTS staff to do outreach and overdose response both in the immediate area of the CTS and the broader neighbourhood. 

More background information about the temporary closure can be found here

Offering supervised consumption is a highly regulated service that not only allows people to use drugs under supervision, but includes a variety of treatment options like:

 

  • Immediate access to individual and group counselling.

  • Referrals to withdrawal management and medication replacement therapy (like methadone and suboxone).

  • Learn more here.


“We are grateful to Health Canada for quickly approving the exemption needed to move our CTS outdoors, and I want to commend our incredible staff for setting up the outdoor space so quickly so that we can resume this lifesaving service,” said Suzanne Obiorah, executive director of Somerset West Community Health Centre. 

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