Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment Study

Do Toronto and Ottawa need supervised consumption facilities? Is the implementation of supervised consumption facilities in Toronto or Ottawa feasible? To answer these questions, we conducted the Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment, a scientific study involving the collection and analysis of data from a variety of sources.

What is a supervised consumption facility?

A supervised consumption facility is a legally sanctioned public health facility that offers a hygienic environment where people can inject illicit drugs under the supervision of trained staff. Some facilities also allow people to smoke illicit drugs. The primary goals of supervised consumption facilities include: reducing drug-related risks including the transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and C and other blood-borne infections; decreasing the number of overdoses; minimizing public order problems (including public drug use); and improving access to health and social services.

To address drug-related problems, communities across the world have responded with policies and programs designed to reduce demand for illicit drugs, reduce the supply of illicit drugs, and reduce drug-related harm. Communities across Canada use a comprehensive approach, which includes prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and enforcement. Supervised consumption facilities are an example of a harm reduction program and are a component of some drug strategies. These facilities were designed to address the health and social problems not addressed by existing drug policies and programs. Across the world, including Canada, other harm reduction programs such as needle and syringe programs and opioid substitution programs have been implemented.

In Canada, there is one supervised injection facility and another organization that offers a supervised injecting service, but no supervised smoking facilities. In September

2003, Canada’s first supervised consumption facility opened in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, an area with a high rate of poverty, open drug use, HIV infection rate and overdose deaths. Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation in Vancouver offers a supervised injecting service that is open only to clients of the agency. Several other Canadian cities have considered the establishment of supervised consumption facilities, including Victoria and Montreal. A 2008 report explored the feasibility of a supervised injection facility for Ottawa. In 2005, Toronto City Council adopted the Toronto Drug Strategy, which included a recommendation for a needs assessment and feasibility study for supervised consumption site(s) taking into account the decentralized nature of drug use in Toronto.

TOSCA was funded by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The views of this report are not necessarily the views of the funding agencies.