TORONTO, ON (April 4, 2022) – Today, Casey House launched outpatient supervised consumption services (SCS), providing a second safe space for clients to use their own drugs while being monitored by trained staff who can provide emergency medical care in case of overdose.
A specialty hospital for people living with and at risk of HIV, Casey House is the first hospital in Ontario and third in Canada to offer on-site supervised consumption as part of its health care.
Expanding access to supervised consumption is critical, given the increasingly toxic supply of unregulated drugs and the growing risk of overdose, which has killed more than 24,000 people in Canada since 2016. Drug testing and supervision at an SCS substantially reduce the risk of overdose and death, and increase access to sterile equipment, education on safer use, and health and social services.
“You don’t have to be a harm reduction expert to understand this is an essential health service,” says Jennifer A. Dewling, Principal at Genova Private Management and chair of Casey House’s board of directors. “This new initiative represents an expansion of our overall holistic approach to health care and harm reduction.”
Casey House’s SCS are open to registered clients 24 hours a day for the inpatient unit and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. for outpatients, and are an extension of its regular health services. Clients can inject, snort or eat their pre-obtained substances at private consumption booths at two supervised locations. Because of the alarming overdose risk from smoking unregulated drugs, more than a third of Ontario overdose deaths in 2020 were attributed to inhaling substances, we built one booth to allow for safer inhalation and are working towards offering this service.
Substance use is frequently a coping mechanism for a myriad of challenges such as trauma and poverty that compound and create barriers to having basic needs met. Barriers faced by people who use drugs prevent them from getting equitable access to health care, which Casey House believes everyone deserves.
“Hospital-based supervised drug use and overdose prevention is something Casey House feels people should be entitled to as part of overall health care. Being able to safely use substances while on-site keeps people connected to health care,” says Dr. Ed Kucharski, chief medical officer at Casey House. “Drug consumption is a key component in understanding and managing someone’s health, and needs to be considered in our clients’ care plans.”
Casey House, known for more than 30 years for expertise in caring for people living with HIV, has recently started also serving those at high risk of HIV. This includes people excluded from traditional care systems, such as people who use drugs.
“Our hospital’s ongoing harm reduction work mirrors and supports the work we do with members of the community who frequently experience barriers to safe living, whether because of stigma, precarious housing, or access to health care,” says Joanne Simons, Casey House CEO.
Simons credits the tremendous work of the harm reduction community across the country, who laid the groundwork over many years for hospital-based supervised consumption to become a reality.
Funding for this new initiative was entirely provided by Casey House donors.
Casey House is unlike any other hospital. We are a specialty hospital in Toronto providing ground-breaking care to people living with and at risk of HIV. Together with our clients, staff, peers and volunteers, we strive to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe. We offer a growing mix of inpatient, outpatient and community-based services that meet clients where they are in their individual journeys of health and wellness. Building on a legacy of advocacy and social justice, we actively dismantle barriers to care and safe living. We provide a community and sense of belonging that connects people to care. The humanity of each client is at the heart of everything we do.
To book an interview with Casey House chief executive officer Joanne Simons, or for more information, contact:
Narrative on behalf of Casey House
WHYSCS: Information about supervised consumption services in Canada https://www.whyscs.ca/
Casey House website https://caseyhouse.ca/
Changing circumstances surrounding opioid-related deaths in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/c/2021/changing-circumstances-surrounding-opioid-related-deaths.pdf?sc_lang=en