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Deirdre Freiheit’s letter in support of Safe Supply

Update: Thank you City Council for passing Councillor Fleury’s Safe Supply motion!

Dear Councillor Fleury:

Re: Safe Supply

Thank you for your leadership on the issue of expanding a safe supply of drugs to those experiencing the impacts of severe addictions in Ottawa. As an organization working on the front lines in the on-going opioid crisis and side by side with Ottawa Inner City Health (OICH), Shepherds of Good Hope (SGH) fully supports the need for greater access to safe supply.

For decades, we have worked tirelessly together to support people who have experienced horrific traumas in their lives that have led them to mask those traumas through drug use. The opioid crisis arrived in our city three years ago and those years have been exceptionally difficult for our clients. Street drugs are becoming more and more toxic and drug dealers are only too happy to take advantage of vulnerable homeless and precariously housed people with severe addictions. Dealers are doing what they do best: preying on a captive audience.

The current pandemic has contributed to street drugs becoming even more toxic, leading to an increase in overdoses. Supervised Consumption and Treatment Centers like the one operated by OICH and SGH have had to reduce the number of people accessing our services to respect physical distancing rules. This has led to people using in the streets without the supports of our health and wellness teams and front-line workers, making it nearly impossible to get to people quickly to administer life saving naloxone (Narcan) when someone is overdosing. We cannot state the obvious enough: people struggling with addictions cannot obtain access to treatment if they are dead.

A safe supply of drugs for this population fits the harm reduction model that has proved successful for individuals who have been unsuccessful in other treatment programs or approaches to care. Increasing safe supply in Ottawa would add a level of evidence-based care for vulnerable citizens who need and deserve the opportunity to have a better quality of life. Your motion to ask for provincial and federal support for this initiative is important and welcomed.

In addition to assisting people with substance use disorder, safe supply will also provide benefits to local businesses and citizens by reducing petty crimes. There are clear benefits to the community and to the Ottawa Police Service by prioritizing this as a health issue rather than requiring police officers to treat it as an enforcement issue.

We trust that our City Council has the best interests of all citizens in mind when making important decisions such as this. As an organization, we remain fully committed to supporting the needs of our clients to benefit them and, by extension, our community.

We urge Mayor Jim Watson and all Ottawa City Councillors to support your motion so that we can offer the best services possible for those who need us most.

Sincerely,

Deirdre Freiheit
President & CEO

Homes for all. Community for all. Hope for all.