One of Ottawa’s top medical professionals is walking away from his high-profile job to devote more time to helping the homeless.

Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull is chief-of-staff at the Ottawa Hospital. In December he will be giving up the positon to spend more time with Ottawa Inner City Health, a non-profit organization that provides health care to Ottawa’s homeless population.

“The opioid crisis is demanding a greater amount of attention,” Turnbull said. “To serve this community, I really have to spend more time with it.”

Turnbull helped found the organization several years ago, and continues to be actively involved. Inner City Health runs nine medical site s in the community with programs ranging from providing bedside visits to homeless patients at the Ottawa Mission, to meeting with severely addicted drug users.

One of the organization’s goals is to try and get drug users to stop using dangerous street drugs, many of which are increasingly laced with fentanyl, and can be deadly.

“We noticed it starting to happen with 3-4 overdoses per month in the summer months, that grew to 38 overdoes in August, and we are well on route to probably triple that this month,” Turnbull said.

To turn injection users away from dangerous street drugs, Turnbull and his team prescribe oral opiates and monitor how patients use them. He hopes giving homeless drug addicts this option will help prevent a deadly overdose.

“They are overdosing at a rate of, some of them, once or even twice a day,” Turnbull said of some of the patients he sees. “Sooner or later, one of those overdoses will be lethal if we don’t intervene.

We're on an exponential curve here,” Turnbull added. “This is ground zero of the opioid crisis and we're just trying to keep people alive.”

Turnbull will be leave his chief-of-staff job at the Ottawa hospital in December, giving up an income of more than $540,000 (2016) a year.

He says devoting more time to the city’s homeless population is his way of giving back.

“They show courage every day,” he said. “They teach me an awful lot and I think I've become a better person through them. I love these folks and devoting more time here is going to be a pleasure for me.”