Barrie identified as focus of consultations due to high rates of opioid overdoses
The group of agencies involved in the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy has written to Barrie councillors, informing them that one of its priority is “to explore an application for supervised consumption services in Barrie.”
Agencies involved in the strategy include include the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), the Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe County (CMHA), and the Gilbert Centre.
“A key component of the application process is community stakeholder consultations. Our organizations will begin these consultations in early 2019 and will provide people with lived experience of opioid use, health and social service providers, outreach service providers, police, fire, paramedics, City of Barrie Council and municipal staff , businesses and the general public in Barrie with an opportunity to share thoughts and perspectives on supervised consumption services (SCS) in Barrie,” states the letter.
It is signed by Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health; Gerry Croteau; Executive Director, Gilbert Centre; and Nancy Roxborough, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association.
The Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) is described as a multi-sector collaboration aimed at reducing opioid harms in Simcoe and Muskoka.
“In 2017-2018, SMOS developed and began implementing a comprehensive Action Plan, organized by pillars focused on Prevention, Treatment/Clinical Practice, Harm Reduction, Enforcement, and Emergency Management.”
There exists “a substantial amount of empirical evidence” that a supervised consumption service, often know as a safe injection site, delivers harm reduction benefits in terms of public health and safety, according to the report.
“Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS) provide an immediate response to an overdose and increase access to health and social services. A SCS is a legally sanctioned health facility that offers a hygienic environment where people can use illicit drugs under the supervision of trained staff. These SCSs are also called safer injection sites, drug consumption rooms and supervised injecting centers or facilities.
Such sites, says the report, provide benefits including:
• reduced overdose fatalities
• lower rates of syringe sharing (which in turn is anticipated to reduce the risk of HIV and Hepatitis C transmission)
• promoting safer and hygienic drug use, thus preventing adverse health outcomes, such as abscesses and infections
• are an effective strategy to reach people at greatest risk of overdose or blood-borne infections, and may improve access to HIV care
• provide an effective referral mechanism to detoxification and addiction treatment
• help to reduce public injecting and the inappropriate discarding of syringes.
The report goes on to say there is no evidence that SCS encourage increased drug use or initiate new users, or that operation of SCS leads to an increase in drug-related crimes.
The letter encourages council, as a community stakeholder, to participate in the consultation process.
“Your feedback is important as it will help to shape a proposed model for SCS in Barrie. Results from the consultations will guide the applications to the federal and provincial governments for SCS in Barrie. You will be contacted in the first few months in 2019 to request an in-person consultation.”
Barrie, the letter continues, is the focus of this consultation due to data which shows:
• rates of emergency department (ED) visits in 2017 for opioid overdoses were significantly higher in Barrie compared to rates in Ontario and the region of Simcoe Muskoka, and in fact ranked third in the province among municipalities larger than 100,000 people
• In 2017 there were 81 opioid related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka, with 36 of those deaths in Barrie
• The central north area of Barrie (which includes downtown) had ten-times the rate of Opioid Overdose ED visits in 2017 compared with the provincial average, and four-times the overall Barrie average. This includes 34 visits among those identifying homelessness.