The provincial chair of Ontario paramedics represented by CUPE met today with representatives of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society (TOPS), at the Moss Park Overdose Prevention Site, a satellite program of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre. CUPE Ontario medics recently made a $7,500 donation to support the vital work of TOPS.
“The nurses and harm reduction workers who staff the Moss Park Overdose Prevention Site are saving lives every day,” said Jason Fraser, chair of the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario (CACO). “I wanted to hear from them firsthand about their approach to overdose prevention. Paramedics’ lifesaving work is on a continuum of care that includes the type of work done at Moss Park every day. They have been ahead of the curve on policy and advocacy at every turn, and CUPE paramedics are very proud to support them.”
TOPS is composed of drug users and their allies, as well as harm reduction and healthcare workers. They came together in the face of the mounting overdose deaths in their communities, and opened the first supervised consumption facility in Ontario in a tent in Moss Park in August 2017. The volunteers of TOPS continued to operate that facility seven days per week for the next 11 months. Ultimately, the Moss Park site was properly funded and taken over as a satellite of South Riverdale Community Health Centre. Their ground-breaking work paved the way for 19 more sites to open across Ontario.
“Because of government inaction, people who use drugs have been left on their own to respond to overdoses and save each other’s lives for far too long. This crisis has made first responders out of many of us who never initially trained for it, and the support and solidarity from CUPE paramedics means so much to us. We are excited to continue working with them, and to learn from and support each other’s work. Building these relationships is needed if we ever hope to see an end to these preventable deaths that have affected so many of us,” said Zoe Dodd, co-coordinator at the Moss Park OPS, and a member of both TOPS and CUPE.