Public Health finds strengths, challenges with Guelph's overdose prevention site

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health says there are strengths and challenges with Guelph’s overdose prevention site following an 11-month evaluation.

From May 2018 to March 2019, 51 clients and 14 staff were interviewed and asked if the site was effective at keeping substance users safe.

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During that time, the service had just over 4,000 visits, with 43 per cent being from repeat clients.

There were 45 overdoses at the site, all of which were reversed and no deaths occurred. The evaluation showed 33 per cent of the clients who overdosed were treated with naloxone and seven per cent were sent to the hospital.

“If I had used somewhere else, I would be dead,” one client told Public Health as part of the evaluation.

“This space has helped with my safety. Staff help me to be more cautious to use a little bit first and not to overdo it,” another said.

Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said they support the clinic’s work because it is saving lives.

“Guelph’s overdose prevention site is one strategy in a multi-service approach to help people who use drugs in our community,” Dr. Mercer said.

WATCH: (Sept. 6, 2018) ‘Evidence is clear’ that overdose prevention sites save lives

Some keys strengths of the site that were identified include the welcoming and safe environment, accessibility to harm reduction supplies and education, on-site medical care, and the ability to receive referrals to other services such as housing, health care and treatment.

Key challenges also identified include space and privacy concerns, hours of operation, wait times, limited staff and some limitations on referrals.

But Raechelle Devereaux, the executive director of the Guelph Community Health Centre where the site is housed, said it offers a spark of hope in the midst of a lot of darkness during the opioid crisis.

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“The OPS is helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community who otherwise might end up as an overdose fatality or a patient in the local ER,” she said.

The site in downtown Guelph was approved in March by the Ontario government to continue operating under a new model.

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