'The crisis supersedes that': Police allow unsanctioned injection site in Moss Park

'The crisis supersedes that': Police allow unsanctioned injection site in Moss Park
From CBC - August 12, 2017

A newly-erected tentlarge enough for a handful of people, some chairs and a pile of overdose-prevention medicationnow stands in Moss Park, placed thereby harm reduction workers who risked arrest Saturday in hopes the pop-up injection site can save lives.

After a spate of overdoses that has left several dead this month already, organizer Matt Johnson of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance, an advocacy network pushing for drug policy changes, said it was time to act with or without the city's permission.

"We are just here to save lives, like all other first responders," Johnson said. "We can really make a dent in the number of people overdosing and dying in this city."

Given the recent spike in overdoses, Johnson said, the organization decided not to wait for permission from police or city officials."We should have done this months ago... Morally and ethically we ca not hold back any longer. We just have to be brave and go ahead and do it."

Staffed by a registered nurse, overdose prevention trainers eager to share life-saving skills, and outreach workers tasked with scouring the park for used needles, the tent will welcome anybody who wants to use drugs and administer naloxone, the anti-overdose medication, to those who need it.

Crisis 'supersedes' concerns about possession, police say

Toronto police spoke with organizers as the tent went up, ultimately deciding to allow it to operate for the time being.

"As Toronto knows there is an absolute crisis on the streets right now," said superintendent Heinz Kuck of the Toronto Police Service.

"Although Toronto Police does notnecessarily agree totally with an injection site like this popping up, because we do have the aspect of illegal drugs coming and going, the crisis supersedes that at this point in time."

Kucksaid it will be "business as usual" for officers patrolling the area, with no more officers there than usualand all will be directed not to target anyone using the site at least for tonight.

He added that the "absolute professionalism" of the site's organizers and the process they have set up, which includes medical professionals on staffand safe disposal bins for used needles, convinced him to allow the site to remain open.

Run exclusively by volunteers, workers have140 overdose kits on hand a mix of injection and nasal spray kits, each containing latex gloves and multiple doses of naloxone.Organizers also plan to distributekits containing clean needles and crack pipes to reduce the transmission of infections.

Although Kucksaid he's not sure what will happen to the site after Saturday night, at this timehe said, "we are going to allow this to take place for the interests of the Toronto people."

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