The Ontario government is committing more than $1.35 million in annual funding to support a new safe consumption and treatment site (CTS) in downtown Peterborough, the area’s MPP announced Friday morning.
Peterborough—Kawartha MPP Dave Smith was joined by several health and addictions experts to announce $1,357,100 annual funding to support the CTS, which will be part of the opioid response hub in the former Greyhound bus station on 220 Simcoe St.
In June 2021 the hub received Health Canada federal approval (and Criminal Code exemption) to provide a safe, hygienic space for people to use drugs under the supervision of health professionals to prevent opioid poisoning deaths.
Some hub services began in January 2022, however, the site was awaiting potential annual funding from the province. It was the currently the only site application in Ontario that had federal exemption from the Criminal Code, according to Fourcast, a community-based addiction treatment provider involved in the project.
No timeline has been given for when the CTS services will begin but Smith says it should open “relatively quickly” once human resources have been fulfilled.
The CTS and hub will provide harm reduction services, primary medial services and offer pathways to off-site services including opiate-replacement therapy, the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic, withdrawal management and community treatment services.
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“The creation of the opioid response hub, mobile mental health and addictions clinics, expanded withdrawal management and outreach services and now the consumption and treatment services will save lives,” said Smith.
“There is no silver bullet though; we need more treatment services in our community. There is much more work to do. Today we take one more small step forward but our work is not done.”
There were 44 suspected opioid overdose deaths in 2021 in the Peterborough area — a number that could change depending on further updates from Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner. Paramedic calls for opioid-related incidents in the region surged by 106 per cent in 2021 with 540 calls, compared with 262 in 2020.
Dr. Thomas Piggott, medical officer of health for Peterborough Public Health, called the funding announcement a “significant milestone” for the region and a “critical step” in efforts to address the opioid crisis through a “compassionate, comprehensive, harm reduction approach.” The health unit serves Peterborough, Peterborough County, Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation.
“Supervised consumption services, or consumption and treatment service sites, are an evidenced-based response (to) the drug poisoning crisis that have been proven to reduce harm, promote health, and support the wellbeing of people who use drugs and the communities in which they are located,” Piggott said in a release.
“Today’s announcement is the result of many years of work by tremendous partners working together to save lives in this community, and I am so grateful to hear the good news of support from MPP Smith and our provincial government.”
Piggott says many in the community have felt first-hand the impacts of the drug-poisoning crisis. He says the work on the crisis “does not end today.”
“For those who are personally affected by this crisis, which I would argue now includes most of us, there is a clear understanding that this service is not only urgently needed for our community, but also overdue,” he said.
“We know that the harms related to substance use in our community are not new, but they have been worsening over the past decade and accelerated to a crisis level throughout the pandemic to the point where we now lose nearly one life every week. We also know that the vast majority of these deaths are accidental, and, in most cases, preventable.
“This CTS will save lives, but it alone will not be enough. Our work on the crisis does not end today.”
Among the groups involved are PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network) and the Peterborough 360 Degree Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, which also works closely with PRHC. In October 2020, PARN relocated its Harm Reduction Works program to the response hub building shortly after it opened in October 2020. In the fall of 2021, more than $160,000 was raised through the Light the Way fundraising campaign to complete renovations to the building.
Donna Rogers, executive director of Fourcast and Randy Mellow, chief of the Peterborough County-City Paramedics, were also on hand for Friday’s announcement. They echoed Piggott’s sentiment that the CTS won’t solve the opioid crisis but is a significant step in providing help to those who need support.
— More to come
— with files from Tricia Mason/Global News Peterborough