Toronto Music Venues Step Up to Battle the Opioid Crisis

Venues like Lee's Palace and Carmen Elle's Less Bar have begun stocking naloxone kits

Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa

BY Sarah MurphyPublished Oct 4, 2017

As the opioid crisis continues to worsen in Ontario, Toronto bars and music venues are stepping up to take precautions and keep their patrons safe.
DIANA's Carmen Elle recently opened an inclusive venue called Less Bar in the city's west end and quickly began stocking the bar with a naloxone kit. It's just another way — in addition to a blanket ban on cellphones, racism, misogyny, homophobia, bullying "or any other bullshit" — that she's trying to keep the space safe.
"Any possible way to avoid somebody seriously OD-ing and possibly dying, I think it's the responsibility of everybody who manages and runs these spaces [to do it]," she told the Canadian Press. "Why wouldn't we all just do that? It's so easy."
Elle's isn't the only venue taking measures to actively prevent overdose-related deaths. Norm Maschke, assistant manager of Lee's Palace, says his bar has had the naloxone antidote on site since earlier this year.
"People do like to party late at night at bars and music clubs and elsewhere, and it would be in our best interest to make sure that if somebody does end up in a compromising position that we can at least help them as best we can," he told the Canadian Press. "To not do it is negligent."
The Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association has not issued an official policy on the antidote, but acknowledges that a number of its members have taken matters into their own hands.
Earlier today (October 4), the province's health minister announced an emergency task force consisting of harm reduction workers, emergency responders, mental health and addiction professionals, public health experts, and other provincial and municipal resources to help cope with the growing public health concern. Ontario previously revealed plans to dedicate $222 million over three years to combat opioid addiction.
Last year, there were 865 opioid-related deaths in the province of Ontario.

Find information on how to obtain a free naloxone kit in the province here.

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