A new overdose prevention site (OPS) will open on Aug. 17 on Brunswick Street, according to Global News
The site, called ReFIX, will be located in the lower level of the Brunswick Street Mission just north of Halifax's downtown core.
“It’s a really good way for people to use safely, use in a clean environment and in a comfortable environment as well,” Cyril Hatfield tells NEWS 95.7’s The Sheldon MacLeod Show.
Hatfield is a member of the Halifax Substance User Network (SUN).
"It's very, very important," he says. "A lot of the overdoses that we have in this city could, and most likely in most cases, would be reversed.”
Halifax SUN is a non-profit organization made up of current and former substance users that work to improve the lives of people who use substances through user-based peer support and evidence-based education. It was founded in 2016.
It’s affiliated with Direction 180, a community-based opioid treatment program, who founded the OPS with Brunswick Street Mission, Mainline Needle Exchange and the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre.
In 2019, the HaliFIX Overdose Prevention Society opened HaliFIX, Atlantic Canada’s first supervised consumption site. The site closed less than two months ago due to the group’s relationship ending with a sponsoring organization.
The funding for the new site comes from a donation by United Way Halifax.
At an OPS, Hatfield says there are people who are trained to respond to an overdose and there are necessary tools available. Everything is controlled and clean, keeping the spread of disease low and keeping people out of the hospital.
Hatfield used to live in Vancouver where the province declared an opioid overdose public health emergency in 2016. He says the model for ReFIX was heavily inspired by that city's models.
“Vancouver is a different situation than what we have here, but it’s the same substances,” he says.
While creating an OPS is a first step for the safety of substance users, organizations like Halifax SUN do even more work.
For instance, Halifax SUN helps substance users with things like housing, income assistance and running errands. Halifax SUN members also want to be advocates for substance users.
At Halifax SUN, Hatfield travels to different cities and provinces to speak to different people like medical students, hospital staff and social workers.
“I really enjoy trying to educate people about the drug situation, about the stigmas that are around it and trying to help reform people’s wording,” he says.
Hatfield says that calling an opiate dependant individual a “junkie” carries a stigma and negative connotation.
“What we hope to do is to get people to think and speak in a slightly different way,” Hatfield says.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 3,823 drug related deaths in Canada in 2019, with 57 deaths in Nova Scotia.