Nova Scotia’s Health Department says talks underway for province’s first overdose prevention site

At just 28 years of age, Matthew Bonn is living proof that access to treatment for addiction saves lives.

“I would be dead. There’s no question in my mind that I would be dead,” he said.

Bonn says he started suffering from active addiction at a very young age and tried to overcome it for years before he was able to access treatment.

“I think I was born with the disease of addiction and I started using drugs at the age of 12 and very quickly progressed into pharmaceuticals and other narcotics,” he said.

According to Health Canada statistics, nearly 4,000 Canadians died from opioid-related overdose deaths last year.

The numbers for the first three months of the year indicate opioid-related overdose deaths have already surpassed 1,000 people.

“Any of us can be affected by a crisis that does result in deaths. I went to my first funeral related to an opioid overdose this year,” said Lisa Roberts, MLA for Halifax-Needham.

The Nova Scotia Public Health Department has confirmed that there are ongoing discussions underway about bringing the first overdose prevention site (OPS) to the province.

An OPS is a temporary facility set up to address an immediate need in a community.

“NSHA Public Health will support these organizations as they explore the potential for OPS to meet the needs of their service population, in accordance with the approval process set out by federal and provincial regulations. This includes, but is not limited to, demonstrating evidence of support from the local community and law enforcement,” Lesley Mulcahy, senior communications adviser with Public Health, wrote in an email.

In September, a community meeting was hosted at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre to discuss the possibility of bringing an OPS to Gottingen Street.

The initiative would fit into the new Direction 180, a community-based opioid treatment centre located Roberts’ district.

She attended that meeting and says that while there was support for the movement, there was also some hesitation from the community.

Roberts feels the reality of addiction speaks volumes about how beneficial an OPS would be for Halifax.

“Nobody wants to be finding needles on sidewalks and in playgrounds or seeing evidence of drug-taking in the community,” she said.

“I think that is actually the reason why it makes sense to have an overdose prevention site — a place where people can go and safely and privately administer drugs at the same location where they can also seek treatment to maybe no longer be taking dangerous drugs from what we know is a contaminated drug supply,” Roberts added.

An average of 60 people die from opioid-related overdose deaths every year in the province.

The results of a countrywide overdose crisis have led to increased investments in addiction and treatment from the Nova Scotia government.

Waiting lists for opioid treatment used to be in the hundreds; now people are able to access treatment plans in a timely manner.

However, people like Bonn believe adding an OPS to the harm reduction picture would go even further to preventing senseless deaths in the wake of the overdose crisis.

“We really need one because I continue seeing it getting worse and worse,” he said.

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