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Ontario to reject funding for 1 of 2 London supervised consumption sites

In Dec. 2018, city council rezoned the York Street address of a former musical instrument shop to allow for a supervised consumption facility. Middlesex-London Health Unit

London will no longer receive provincial funding for one of two proposed supervised consumption sites in the city, Global News Radio 980 CFPL learned Monday.

During an appearance on The Craig Needles Show, London medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie confirmed the Ontario government would no longer support funding for a site at 446 York St.

An email to Global News Radio 980 CFPL from a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care stated, “the government is moving forward with 15 approved Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) sites in communities with high need, including one site in London located at 186 King Street.”

While the spokesperson did not address whether a funding application for 446 York St. had been rejected, the email added, “zoning appeals have been filed in relation to the proposed CTS site at 446 York Street and these appeals are still underway. Services will continue to be offered at 186 King St. in the interim. ”

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READ MORE: Ontario government to keep funding overdose-prevention sites

Mackie added that this poses a difficulty for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, the public health unit that has been leading the charge to get supervised consumption sites set up in London.

“The federal exemption for drug prosecution laws requires us to have sustainable funding,” Mackie said.

“If the province, which is normally the funder for health care, isn’t paying, it’s a big hurdle to get over.”

The site at 446 York St. would have needed about $1.3 million annually, Mackie said, but this price would have still made it a very cost-effective preventive measure.

“A single case of HIV costs the health-care system about that much… but when you don’t have that money, it’s tough to make the site run,” Mackie said.

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The province has shown interest in turning London’s temporary overdose prevention site, currently located at 186 King St., into a permanent fixture, Mackie said.

“I’m not sure if that site is viable long term. I will certainly look at it closely, but it is really encouraging that they’re not backing away from supervised consumption or consumption treatment services,” Mackie said.

“They are supportive of the work we’re doing. They just don’t see 446 York St. as the right location.”

It is also unclear if turning 186 King St. into a permanent location would be possible, as the site’s lease is set to expire on March 31, 2020.

The province has also been encouraging London to apply for a mobile supervised consumption site, Mackie added.

“Mobile is not like roaming the streets. Mobile is stopping at two or three places, the same places, each day. If we did that, that could reach out to other places that are currently not served by the downtown location,” he said.

READ MORE: Drewlo Holdings voices opposition ahead of public meeting on supervised consumption site

Mayor Ed Holder released a statement on Monday afternoon, expressing his disappointment in the decision. Holder noted that 446 York St. was selected after “more than a year’s worth of consultation and public input” with support from local police and the health unit and “a near unanimous vote” by city council in December.

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“I have reached out to the province in hopes of receiving clarification surrounding the decision to reject the site on York Street, as well as commitments surrounding the long-term future of the existing site on King Street.”

The proposed site at 446 York St. has been a long-running subject of debate in London, with a major developer and landlord in the city expressing strong opposition to the location late last year.

At that time, Drewlo Holdings issued a statement arguing that the site would be too close to Beal and Catholic Central secondary schools and that residents already face security issues because of the nearby Men’s Mission.

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Another proposed site aims to take space at 241 Simcoe St., but Mackie added that the site is not currently under provincial review.

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