The Reseau Access Network says the Spot faces inevitable closure after the province announced this week that it is hitting pause on approving new sites while a review is underway.
The network, which operates Sudbury’s only safe consumption site (located at 24 Energy Court), applied for provincial funding more than two years ago and has not received approval.
Municipal funding will run out at the end of the year, forcing it to close its doors, say harm reduction workers.
Concerned citizens are being asked to sign a petition at savethespot.ca asking MPP Michael Tibollo and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to approve funding.
“The Spot has been a beacon of hope and support for many in the community, providing essential services to those in need,” the petition states. “It has been instrumental in reducing overdose deaths, helping prevent the transmission of diseases, and connecting individuals with crucial social and healthcare services. Investing in harm reduction services is a proven cost-effective strategy that not only saves lives but also reduces healthcare expenditures.
“The District of Sudbury Manitoulin has one of the highest rates of drug poisoning fatalities per capita in the province, and the closure of The Spot would be a devastating blow to our community, especially during the ongoing overdose crisis. Without provincial funding, many individuals, including those who are unhoused, will be left with no option but to consume in public spaces, exacerbating the crisis and putting more lives at risk.”
If approved for provincial funding, The Spot could stay open, expand its hours, move to a central location and service more people, the network said.
A spokesperson from the Ontario Ministry of Health told the Sudbury Star that it has received The Spot’s application.
“The Ministry is in receipt of an application for a consumption and treatment site in Sudbury,” said the spokesperson. “All applications are subject to a rigorous screening process and timelines for the application screening process vary.”
The province launched a “critical incident review” of safe consumption sites in the summer after a 44-year-old mother of two was killed by a stray bullet near a consumption site in Toronto’s east end following a physical altercation between three men.
Police have laid charges against several people in the death of Karolina Huebner-Makurat, including accessory after the fact and obstructing justice counts laid against a woman who worked at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre.
Huebner-Makurat’s death sparked outrage and a debate over supervised consumption sites.
On Wednesday, Tibollo, who is the province’s associate minister of mental health and addictions, said everything is on the table with the review, including the locations of consumption and treatment sites. However, he said the province is not looking at shutting down any of Ontario’s 17 supervised consumption and treatment sites.
Since the Sudbury site has not been funded by the province, it would not be considered one of the existing sites even though it is open thanks to City of Greater Sudbury funding.
“I don’t see that as being one of the options, it’s not what we’re looking at,” Tibollo said. “We know that there is some benefit to them because we’ve seen the outcomes.”
He said the province is trying to create a system that provides low barrier access to anyone who wants help that also balances public safety.
“Public safety is a priority for us, and we have to make sure that whatever we do is calculated to be done in such a way to make sure that no one is going to be harmed as a result of the sites being open and being operational,” he said.
“And I think we’re doing this in the appropriate way, which is to study it and to have experts come back and make recommendations to us that we will implement.”
Waiting for recommendations
Tibollo said he’s still waiting to receive the recommendations from the review.
“The recommendations, as I understand them, are going to be based on establishing how we can improve the relationship between the communities where they’re located and the people that are in need of having these places to go to,” he said.
He said the province is looking at ideas such as adding extra security to the sites and more health-care workers, and is also examining the hours they operate.
“When you look at the consumption and treatment sites and you look at when people are dying of overdoses, there’s a lot of people still dying alone and they’re dying alone in bed at night,” Tibollo said.
“We don’t have consumption and treatment sites that are open at night, so what more can we do as a government to expand supports?”
The province is also looking at other models of care, including one program Tibollo said exists in Alberta that allows for a paramedic to show up to someone’s home if they do not answer a call 10 minutes after taking drugs.
He said the province is also considering other harm reduction options, such as providing free kits to test drugs for fentanyl, benzodiazepines and xylosine, a horse tranquilizer, that coroners are finding in the systems of those who’ve died by opioid poisoning.
“These are all harm reduction methods that are going to help us get this problem under control,” Tibollo said.
He stressed the most important thing the government is doing is creating capacity in the system to help by adding 7,000 treatment spots across the province.
“We’ve got more to do,” he said. “The most important thing we can do is help that individual get into recovery treatment.”
The latest figures from the Office of the Chief Coroner show a slight decrease in opioid toxicity deaths in the first quarter, 649, compared to the previous one, 675.
Opioid deaths began to rise in Ontario in 2015 when illicit fentanyl made its way to the province. Those deaths surged during the pandemic.
In 2021, the mortality rate for opioid toxicity hit its peak of 19.3 deaths per 100,000 people. That mortality rate has dropped in the first quarter of 2023 to 17.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
In 2019, the mortality rate for opioids was 10.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
– with files from the Canadian Press
By Laura Stradiotto, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 07, 2023 at 00:55