Search for safe consumption site settles on two downtown locations – stakeholders invited to offer opinions through survey

Data shows that between January and May, there were 44 confirmed and probable opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka, 50 per cent higher than the comparable average for the previous three years.


“We need to come together and create a safe space with clean injection supplies, care and compassion and reconnect our most vulnerable citizens with society and much needed health services.” – Dr. Valerie Grdisa, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association, Simcoe County Branch

The search for a supervised consumption site (SCS) is back on, with the site selection advisory committee focusing on two downtown locations: 110 Dunlop Street West and 31 Toronto Street.
The Toronto Street location features a structure at the back of the property that would serve as the SCS. The committee is also providing an opportunity for residents to voice their opinions on the locations through an online survey, available at www.smdhu.org/SCS until October 30. A paper copy of the survey can be mailed out by calling 1-877-721-7520, ext. 7333, leaving a voice mail.
“The opioid crisis has not abated during COVID-19. It has continued to be a tragic problem in our region and particularly in Barrie, which has been disproportionally impacted by a recent increase in opioid-related deaths,” said Dr. Lisa Simon, Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
The applicants had previously focused on 90 Mulcaster Street as a location for an SCS. The property is owned by the Canadian Mental Heart Association (CMHA), adjacent to the Busby Street Centre. That process included community consultations, but encountered opposition. In April, the search for a site was put on hold due to resource challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The unit is a co-applicant for the SCS, along with the CMHA Simcoe Branch, as the lead applicant. The survey aims to gather views from people who live, work, own a business or go to school in Barrie, on the proposed sites. The two properties were deemed the most viable by the committee, following a search process and a criteria-based comparison of the location options.
Data shows that between January and May, there were 44 confirmed and probable opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka, 50 per cent higher than the comparable average for the previous three years. Nineteen (or 43 per cent) of these deaths occurred in Barrie, which has a quarter of the region’s population.
Advocates for supervised consumption sites say they help save lives and create safer communities, providing a safe and clean environment for people to use their own drugs under the care of nursing staff. They can connect clients to treatment for addictions and mental illness, and other health and social services. 
“The (SCS) is a fundamental element of our overall strategy to address the escalating opioid crisis that has had such a profound impact on our community,” said Dr. Valerie Grdisa, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association, Simcoe County Branch. “We need to come together and create a safe space with clean injection supplies, care and compassion and reconnect our most vulnerable citizens with society and much needed health services.”
The survey, which is voluntary and anonymous, is part of public consultations on a proposed SCS in downtown Barrie as a service for people who use drugs. Virtual facilitated community consultations will also be offered for addresses and occupants within 250 metres of the two locations later this fall. 
The application for a SCS is part of the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy’s (SMOS) Action Plan. SMOS is a large partnership of agencies, organizations and individuals working to address the crisis of opioid use and overdose in the region. For more information on the SMOS Action Plan and related work, visit www.preventod.ca
For more information on SCSs, including the local SCS application history and the recent work of the Advisory committee, visit www.smdhu.org/SCS or call Health Connection at 1-877-721-7520 or 705-721-7520 weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

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