By Krystalle Ramlakhan

People who work to keep drug users in Ottawa safe are harshly criticizing the Ontario government's decision to halt approvals of overdose prevention sites.

In a letter sent late Friday to local health integration networks and health units across the province, Roselle Martino, assistant deputy minister of the population and public health division, said the halting of the approval process was effective immediately.

The decision means that for now, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will not give the green light to new overdose prevention sites and is officially pausing the process for sites that are not open yet.

Overdose prevention sites (OPS) are temporary harm-reduction sites where the injection of drugs is supervised. They also allow drug users to access harm reduction supplies and dispose of used needles and other drug paraphenalia.

Some sites also offer supervised oral and intranasal drug consumption, as well as provide test strips to check drugs for fentanyl.