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NorWest holds clean-up despite overdose prevention site delay

A temporary overdose prevention site that had been scheduled to open has been put on hold by the new provincial government.
NorWest cleanup
Community members gathered at the NorWest Community Health Centres to help clean up the East End on Wednesday. (Michael Charlebois, tbnewswatch)

THUNDER BAY - NorWest Community Health Centres is continuing to promote the efforts a cleaner and safer neighbourhood, despite the province's announcement it is pausing an overdose-prevention site set to be launched at the health centre.

That launch was originally the reason behind Wednesday’s community clean-up in the city's East End.

“There’s a myth that areas nearby overdose prevention sites will have drug paraphernalia on the streets nearby,” CEO Juanita Lawson said. “We wanted to clean up the area and show it would stay clean over time.”

Whether the myth is true or not may never be realized.

The health centre was one week away from opening the doors, with staff fully hired and trained, before the Ministry of Health determined more research needed to be done to determine to merit of overdose prevention sites.

“The pause is very disheartening, I think the evidence is here that these sites need to be available,” said clinical service director Jennifer Lawrance.

NorWest still has a number of clean-ups planned for the future, with or without the injection site.

On Wednesday, a number of community partners including Evergreen United Neighbourhood, Superior Points, Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Roots to Harvest, and Stand Up 4 Cleanup took part.

“Many community organizations in the city have done a lot of work to establish the need for (an injection site) in this city,” Lawrance said.

Lawrance says the community would be safer from illicit and harmful drug paraphernalia if an injection site was nearby.

“We know that providing a safe and private place for those who we know are choosing to use drugs... it helps keep the drugs, paraphernalia, and use in a safe place.”

Michael Charlebois

About the Author: Michael Charlebois

Michael Charlebois was born and raised in Thunder Bay, where he attended St. Patrick High School and graduated in 2015. He attends Carleton University in Ottawa where he studies journalism.
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