The former Greyhound bus station, located at 220 Simcoe St. in Peterborough will be home to a new Opioid Response Hub.
During a Zoom teleconference on Friday, Peterborough Drug Strategy announced that the hub will include two services: the Harm Reduction Works Program by Peterborough Aids Resource Network (PARN), and the soon-to-be launched Mobile Strategic Overdose Response Team (MSORT).
The Harm Reduction program provides sterile equipment for drug-use, such as needles, to prevent the transmission of blood-borne viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C. The program also distributes Naloxone to individuals at-risk of overdose in the community. It is operated by PARN, and funded by Peterborough Public Health.
The MSORT team — made up of four part-time PARN peer support workers, two FourCAST case managers in addiction services, and one paramedic — aims to reach an individual 24 hours within their overdose, and direct them to addiction and mental health resources, as well as assess their physical and social situation, if they choose not to go to the hospital.
But community partners are hoping that a third service can soon operate out of the building as well – a safe consumption an and treatment site (CTS).
Securing the Simcoe St. location means that the partners, – including Peterborough Public Health, FourCAST, Peterborough Police Service, Peterborough Drug Strategy, and PARN – can finally submit an application to the province for the site.
The partners say the application is nearing its completion, and they hope to submit it in the coming weeks.
“We are thrilled that we are working with a property owner who understands the importance of harm reduction in Peterborough, especially at a time when the poisoned drug supply is taking so many lives in our community,” said Charles Shamess, executive director at PARN.
“Our service provider partners and the broader community have stepped up to design a collaborative and multifaceted range of responses that are necessary to address the complex issues of addictions and overdose in Peterborough.”
According to Peterborough Drug Strategy, COVID-19 complications had forced the Harm Reduction Program to operate out of One City offices, located on 541 Water St. The program will begin to operate out of the Greyhound building starting Oct. 13.
“This is a critical step forward in addressing the drug poisoning crisis affecting our residents,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, medical officer of health for Peterborough Public Health.
“We are proud to be a part of this effective collaboration that brought these services and this site together for the benefit of the community.”
Peterborough has the fourth-highest rate of annual opioid-related deaths in Ontario, according to data between 2013 and 2016. The city also has the third-highest number of opioid hospitalizations in the province, according to 2016-2017 data.
There have been 34 drug-related deaths in the city so far this year.
The search for a location for the CTS site has been a long journey for many of the community partners.
In November of 2019, PDS put out a community engagement survey to gather public opinion on the use of CTS site in the city.
Back then, PARN had said that the “main piece” of the puzzle was finding someone willing to rent out space to host the site.
According to PDS, the survey garnered 1,621 responses, with 74 percent of participants agreeing that a CTS site will benefit the community. Participants also said that reduction of injuries and deaths from drug overdoses and poisonings, prevention of blood-borne infections, and less publicly discarded needles and drug litter would be some of the key benefits of having a CTS.
PDS said a separate survey involving 122 participants in Peterborough, who use injection drugs, found that 91 per cent would access a CTS site in the downtown area.
“The opportunity to bring multiple organizations and services together to provide a comprehensive treatment and support response for those struggling with opioid use has been the goal of this group for many years,” said Donna Rogers, Executive Director at FourCAST.