London, ON – A new tool in the struggle to solve London’s opioid drug crisis is closer to reality this morning. One week after submitting an application and two days after police announced three deaths and two hospitalizations from suspected drug overdoses this week, it was announced that a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site (TOPS) has been approved to open in the downtown core. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has approved the application for a TOPS with one-time funding of $130,700. The TOPS will be located at 186 King Street and will share space with Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. As the Counterpoint Needle and Syringe Program currently operates there, the TOPS location is already familiar to people who use injection drugs.
The facility is expected to open in mid-February, and will provide people who use injection drugs with a space where they can use those drugs under the supervision of health professionals in order to prevent overdose deaths.
The creation of a TOPS in London became possible in December of 2017, when the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced an expanded response to Ontario’s opioid drug crisis. In addition to equipping police and fire services with the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins wrote to the federal government requesting that Ontario be allowed to approve and fund overdose prevention sites.
In response, the Health Unit and Regional HIV/AIDS Connection began considering suitable locations and drafted the application for a facility in London, with the support of partners including London Intercommunity Health Centre, Addiction Services of Thames Valley, the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, and London CAReS.
“I know my community in London has been concerned by this growing crisis, and I am proud that we will be the first city in Ontario to have an overdose prevention site. Thanks to the thoughtful collaboration of London’s strong community and health partners who have worked quickly and diligently with the Ontario government to make this possible, we will help save lives.” says Deb Matthews, MPP London North Centre.
“This is a turning point in how we respond to the crisis that has gripped the London area for years. This isn’t the only change that needs to happen, but it represents a significant step in turning the tide and supporting vulnerable people who struggle with addiction every day,” says Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
“We’re at a critical time in the fight against these drugs. There is increased awareness about how bad the situation has become and opinions are changing about what can be done. This facility will save lives,” says Brian Lester, Executive Director of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.
Once it opens its doors, London’s TOPS will be open Monday to Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. While the announcement of the TOPS is important, work to prepare an application for one or more permanent Supervised Consumption Facilities for London will continue.
Alex Tyml, Online Communications Coordinator, Middlesex-London Health Unit,
519-663-5317 ext. 2560 or 226-236-1941 (cell.)
Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health and CEO, Middlesex-London Health Unit
Brian Lester, Executive Director, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection