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City receives letters of opposition to east Hamilton safe injection site location

Hamilton paramedics have been given the go ahead from the city's health care system to treat 'stable' suspected COVID-19 patients at their homes. Global News

There is opposition to the establishment of a safe injection site in Hamilton’s east end.

The opioid safe site is to be located within a former restaurant building on Barton Street East, near Sherman Avenue, but the location is opposed by the authors of three letters received by the city’s board of health.

Read more: Board of health unanimously supports application for second CTS site in Hamilton

The Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board is voicing “grave concern,” noting that the site is less than 200 metres from St. Ann Catholic Elementary School.

Board Director Patrick Daly’s letter “strongly urges” consideration of an alternate location.

The operators of a day program for adults with developmental disabilities have also voiced opposition, saying safe injection sites create scenarios that are “unsafe and scary” for their clients.

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A third letter is from a resident living in the area who says a petition of about 200 signatures has been compiled, adding that the community is “fully mobilized and directly engaged” on the issue.

Last month, Hamilton’s board of health voted unanimously to support The AIDS Network in its application to Ontario’s Ministry of Health, to establish the consumption and treatment services (CTS) location at the 746 Barton St. E. location.

Tim McClemont, The AIDS Network’s executive director, has cited “an urgent need” as opioid overdoses and deaths continue, at what Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann termed a “staggering” rate.

Read more: Hamilton council backs local bid for permanent consumption and treatment site

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Statistics presented to the board of health on Oct.19, show Hamilton had Ontario’s fifth-highest opioid-related death rate in 2020 at 29 per cent above the provincial rate.

Paramedics responded to 594 overdose calls in the city during the first eight months of 2021, compared to 565 for all of 2020.

“It’s something new, still,” admits Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr in reference to safe injection sites, “there is an understandable reaction you get from some in the community.”

Read more: Advocates say safe drug supply needed to combat spike in opioid overdose deaths in Canada

Michelle Baird, Hamilton’s director of epidemiology, wellness and communicable disease, adds that the AIDS Network is currently accepting feedback on its proposal.

She stresses that the process requires consultation with the school board, with “plans in place to mitigate any concerns that might be there.”

Hamilton’s first safe injection site was approved in March 2019 and is run by Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre within the downtown core.

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