Today, Toronto Public Health (TPH), Unity Health Toronto and the University Health Network (UHN) announced new partnerships to expand frontline health care services in responding to the escalating drug poisoning crisis in Toronto. This will be the first time that acute care hospitals in Ontario and Public Health have worked together to offer supervised consumption services, adding a new way of providing essential harm reduction programming and care in Toronto. The new partnerships will see TPH’s long-standing harm reduction program, The Works, collaborate with St. Michael’s Hospital (part of Unity Health Toronto), and with Toronto Western Hospital (part of UHN). The specific community locations for the new sites will be determined over the next 12 to 24 months.
As outlined in TPH’s 2023 Population Health Profile, opioid overdoses reached record levels in 2021. Overdose deaths are preventable and are due, in large part, to the unregulated drug supply, where the use of highly potent opioids combined with more unexpected and concerning substances are significantly increasing the risk of overdose.
In 2021, the number of deaths in Toronto due to opioid toxicity rose to 591.
Many factors, including stigma and discrimination, prevent individuals from accessing services and impact the health of people who use drugs. Embedding community-based harm reduction services alongside hospital-based health care services provides clients access to a full continuum of care based on their needs. More information is available in TPH’s 2023 Population Health Profile: Insight on the Health of Our City.
In 2022, The Works supported more than 21,000 visits for supervised injection, preventing communicable diseases and providing health and social support, and more than 500 overdoses were prevented. The delivery of frontline services to the community as part of The Works program represents one of many actions that TPH is taking to respond to the drug poisoning crisis, which are outlined in the Toronto Overdose Action Plan.
About TPH’s “The Works”
The Works has been supporting the Toronto community for more than 30 years, by offering a range of services to those who use drugs including:
“Supervised consumption services are critical medical services that have proven to save lives, especially as opioid overdoses have reached record levels in our city. I am thrilled to see these important services expand through the presence of new hospital partners at the table.”
– Councillor Chris Moise (Toronto Centre), Chair of the Board of Health
“There is a great need for harm reduction and supervised consumption services across our city. We are so pleased to announce this historic partnership between Toronto Public Health, Unity Health Toronto and University Health Network, with all of us working together in response to the ongoing drug poisoning crisis.”
– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health
“Supervised consumption sites save lives and are needed more than ever. At Unity Health Toronto, equity is fundamental to our vision and we are proud to be working with our partners in this next evolution of harm reduction in the city.”
– Dr. Tim Rutledge, President & CEO of Unity Health Toronto
“University Health Network is committed to partnering with the City of Toronto, community agencies and other health care organizations to provide the right care in the right place. The Emmanuel Gattuso Social Medicine Program and our Emergency Departments have been front and centre in this work and their partnerships in the community are critical to this site and this work.”
– Dr. Kevin Smith, President & CEO of University Health Network (UHN)
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Media contact: Toronto Public Health Media Relations, TPHmedia@toronto.ca