Report on supervised consumption site consultations released

A supervised drug consumption site (SCS) in Barrie should do more than focus on its clients. It should seek to ensure community and client safety, and provide links to treatment, social and health services in Barrie for people using the site.

Those are some of the suggestions from the community emerging from a report summarizing the public consultations into the site, released Wednesday, May 8 by the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy.

International research has shown the value of supervised consumption sites in saving lives and reducing harm.

The report commits to mitigation strategies to address these concerns, as well as to ongoing efforts to educate the public and raise awareness of the supervised consumption site once it’s created, and to maintain regular liaison and engagement with the surrounding community.

The report summarizes what emerged from community consultations into a proposed SCS application, held between January and March this year. The consultations involved interviews with community partners; a survey of people with lived experience of drug use, an online survey for the general public, and a public open house.

The public survey drew 2,039 responses from local residents, who were fairly evenly split over whether the site would be helpful in Barrie, with 49 per cent saying it would be helpful, 44 per cent saying it would not be, and seven per cent being unsure. The percentages represent the respondents only, and not the entire Barrie community, based on the survey design.

In the surveys as well as community partner consultations, concerns were expressed about the SCS potentially contributing to increased drug use and sales of drugs, and increased crime.

However, people also felt that the SCS would prevent overdose deaths, reduce the number of discarded needles in public spaces, reduce open public drug use, and reduce the risk of blood-borne diseases through shared needles.

In addition to the public survey, 47 people with lived experience of drug use were surveyed, and 24 community partners were interviewed including elected officials, first responders, businesses, health care providers, social services and neighbourhood organizations. The open house held in Barrie City Hall on March 20 drew 140 people.

Earlier this month, the decision was made to locate the prospective SCS at 90 Mulcaster Street in Barrie.

To provide local residents with information about the proposed operation of the SCS, there will be an information open house held for residents who live in the neighbourhood around 90 Mulcaster. It is a drop-in event that takes place on Wednesday, May 15, between 5 and 8 p.m. at Collier Street United Church.

The application, including the site proposal, will be presented to Barrie City Council’s General Committee on May 27, with it going to Council for endorsement on June 3 before being submitted to the federal and provincial governments.

The consultation report can be read at www.smdhu.org/SCS under the “Update on Consultations” heading.

For more information call Health Connection at 1-877-721-7520 or 705-721-7520.

The Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy is a collective comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing opioid harms in Simcoe and Muskoka.

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