Hours into opening Ottawa’s first makeshift overdose prevention site, organizers said they supervised 11 people as they used drugs.

The site, which is run by a group of trained volunteers advocating for legal safe consumption sites, opened at Raphael Brunet Park on Friday, without a permit.

“Primarily we’re here to save a life if ever someone has an overdose, which is not a service offered now, nowhere in Ottawa can you inject safely, said Marilou Gagnon, a member of the group, and president of Harm Reduction Nurses Association.

The group said they chose to open without the permit, because receiving the approval from Health Canada can take months, if not years.  

“People are dying,” Gagnon said. “They use alone and we just can’t justify letting people die because of bureaucracy.”

There is a legal supervised injection site set to open at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre in October. This clinic has already received approval from Health Canada.

Gagnon said there will be three volunteers working at the site at all times who will supervise drug use. There will also be naloxone kits on site, and clean needles.

Bobby Jamison, a recovered addict turned peer social worker, said in the last 30 days he has assisted with three overdoses in Ottawa. Jamison feels there is an overdose crisis in Canada that requires action today.

“That strong fentanyl that everybody was hearing about, I believe it finally hit Ottawa, and we need help now,” Jamison said.

Overdose prevention sites already exist in Toronto and Vancouver. The group said they will be following the lead from those cities.

The city has not been involved with the imitative, according to Mayor Jim Watson, who said in a statement that “the City is always open to discussions with partners who have a common goal of saving lives from potential overdoses,” Watson wrote in an e-mail.

“That being said, there is a process for the federal approval of supervised consumption sites that I would encourage all community agencies to follow.”

In other cities, police have left the sites running – OPO officials are hoping for the same treatment in Ottawa.