‘Do it the proper ways’: Windsor Overdose Prevention Society submits non-profit status application

The Windsor Overdose Prevention Society (WOPS) submitted an application Friday seeking formal status as a non-profit organization.

According to WOPS member Brandon Bailey, his organization is also working on filing paperwork to the federal government seeking status as an organization exempt to operate a supervised injection site. 

“We are mostly through that,” said Bailey. “I’m going to say by month’s end, we should be able to send that into the federal government and then have an exemption.”

The exemption would allow WOPS to legally operate a supervised injection site without fear of prosecution. 

Bailey clarified that once all the paperwork is approved, WOPS will take care to ensure that a future site will be established in “a place that makes sense.”

(Flora Pan/CBC)

“We’re not gonna go build one in South Windsor, knowing that it’s probably not going to be used very often,” said Bailey. “We’re gonna go put one in those high-usage areas.”

WOPS has approached the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) about working together, though Bailey said any WOPS-run site would be “more of a peer-to-peer run” operation.

“Run by people who have lived experience, people who may already be sober, who have used drugs,” he said. “It’s more of a peer-based approach instead of the medical approach.”

WOPS previously established an unsanctioned supervised injection site inside a black tent at an undisclosed location.

According to Bailey, the tent “didn’t get a lot of traction.”

He said most of the calls his organization received about the tent site were from individuals seeking more formal resources.

“We never wanted to set up a tent,” said Bailey. “We set up a tent because we felt we had to.”

Bailey said his organization was told to “go through the legitimate channels and do it the proper ways, and that’s what we’re trying to do now.”

Community supports supervised injections sites

The Windsor Overdose Prevention Society’s non-profit status filing comes just one day after the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) revealed details about a survey seeking public input regarding the potential presence of supervised injection sites in Windsor. 

The health unit used a Thursday board meeting to reveal that approximately 61 per cent of the online survey’s 2,512 respondents were in favour of supervised injection sites.

Thirty one per cent of online respondents said they were opposed to such sites. The remainder were undecided.

For his part, Bailey said he wasn’t surprised by the results. 

“I do see that we have a lot of support in the community,” he said. “Sometimes it does get overshadowed by people online or people in comments sections.”

“But when 2,500 people were surveyed and 61 per cent of the people surveyed were for a site, then it just shows that what we’ve been doing is working.”

The Windsor-Essex health unit is expected to publish it supervised injection site finding in a full report to be presented at a board meeting in September 2019.