The federal government is pledging $600,000 to Ottawa Public Health to help sustain a supervised injection site in Lower Town.

The OPH-operated site on Clarence St. is no longer getting provincial funding.

Director of Health Protection Andrew Hendriks says he’s relieved by the temporary break.

“This is good news for us,” Hendriks says. “We were disappointed back in March when we heard from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that we weren’t going to be able to get ongoing operating funds through the provincial government, so this allows us to continue to offer services to clients who need access supervised consumption services.”

Hendriks says the money announced by the federal Health Ministry will keep the site operation for about six months.

The 179 Clarence St. site opened in September of 2017. Hendriks says since that time, there have been 15,000 visits for their services. Nurses have intervened in more than 200 overdoses at that site alone.

Hendriks says that helps take some stress off of emergency services and hospitals.

“These are clients who may, in normal situations, inject in a public space, which would require a paramedic call and transportation to an emergency department,” he says. “But by providing them a supervised consumption service, the nurse is able to divert them from having to go to an emergency department.”

Hendriks adds the relationships nurses are able to build with clients at the site have helped them make more than 1,000 referrals to various treatment and social services, like addiction treatment, housing support, and financial services for clients.

“When you talk to the nurses who see some of these clients on a daily basis, what they share with me is they’re able to build relationships over time and, by building those relationships, they’re able to have more therapeutic conversations and eventually get clients into other services to address their substance use.”

There are three other supervised injection sites in Ottawa: at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, behind the Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray St. (run by Inner City Health) and at the Somerset Community Health Centre. Those sites are still receiving provincial funding at this time.

But Hendriks says those three sites are also at maximum capacity, so having the OPH site continue to stay open will help.

“We know that the service is required. We hope it doesn’t ever come to the point where we have to close our doors. We’ll be working with our partners and all levels of government to try and keep our doors open in the long-term,” Hendriks says.