Somerset West Community Health Centre gets green light to open Supervised Injection Service

Supervised_Injection_Service_approved_FBHealth Centre has obtained legal exemption and program funding.

December 4, 2017 (Ottawa) – Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC) is pleased to announce that its application to open a supervised injection service (SIS) has taken a leap forward. SWCHC has been granted an exemption from Health Canada and program funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The centre now awaits infrastructure funding to make needed renovations.

The process to open a supervised injection service includes:

  1. Receiving an exemption from Health Canada under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This exemption will allow people to inject drugs in a specific room at SWCHC. (Status: Done)
  2. Receiving program funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (Status: Done)
  3. Receiving infrastructure funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for building renovation. (Status: In process)
  4. Renovation to create SIS. The SWCHC SIS will be in existing building space at 55 Eccles. SWCHC has started planning the renovation, which cannot begin until infrastructure funding is received. (Status: Planning)
  5. Final inspection and approval by Health Canada. At this time SWCHC cannot speculate on a SIS open date.

“Somerset West Community Health Centre believes that every person deserves access to health services,” said Naini Cloutier, executive director. “A supervised injection service is essential, because members of our community are dying. They are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.”

In a June 2016 report, Ottawa Public Health identified Somerset Ward as having the second highest counts and rates of average annual:

  • Emergency room visits related to unintentional drug overdose between 2013-2015.
  • Number of individuals diagnosed with Hepatitis C or HIV with reported injection drug use between 2011-2014. (Source: Problematic Substance Use in Ottawa — Technical Report, Ottawa Public Health 2016)

SWCHC believes that the people accessing its programs must play a key role in their development and delivery. This has led to their active involvement in the design, development and implementation of the SWCHC SIS. The people helping to create the service understand their peers’ realities. Together we have planned a SIS that will meet the unique needs of people who use drugs.

SWCHC’s harm reduction peer program fosters mutual aid and support. The centre encourages people who use drugs to support and take care of each other. The centre also provides leadership training and community development to people who use drugs.

SWCHC frequently hears from clients that they use drugs in spaces that do not feel safe to them, including public washrooms, alleys, parks or doorways. They avoid being observed, are most often alone, and may dispose of needles in public places. Overdose is more likely and more often fatal under these conditions. The lack of a safe space to inject drugs in the Somerset Ward has resulted in a tragic increase in opioid overdose incidents, deaths and community trauma experienced by residents and our clients.

Somerset West Community Health Centre has been offering a range of harm-reduction services for 20 years. This includes condoms, smoking reduction support, crack pipes and new injection supplies. SWCHC is creating a safer neighbourhood by making it possible for people who use drugs to do so in a safe environment where drug paraphernalia can be disposed of responsibly.

When obtaining new supplies and using the SIS (once it opens) at SWCHC, people who use drugs also receive other health services, including:

  • Computer and phone access, clothing and other basic needs.
  • One-on-one support to help people find the resources they need. This can include basic needs like food, housing, and dental hygiene. Also navigating the legal system, mental health system, and the medical system.
  • Help people develop healthier approaches to their life. This could include healthy eating and reducing how often they smoke.
  • A peer program that sees people not just as accessing services, but people who also have skills and knowledge, and can help deliver services.
  • Medical walk-in clinic, primary care, HIV testing.

About Somerset West Community Health Centre

Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC) believes that every person deserves access to health services. SWCHC supports residents through health care, counselling, addiction support, food programs and more. There are programs for children, adults and seniors. Services are in English, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic and more. Visit or follow @SWCHC on Twitter.