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Nearly 1,600 visits since Peterborough consumption and treatment site opened in June

Click to play video: 'Advocates say successful start for safe injection site in Peterborough'
Advocates say successful start for safe injection site in Peterborough
Fourcast's Consumption and Treatment Services Site saw double the number of visits in August compared to July - around 150 unique users and almost 1,000 visits in August alone. With the uptake in visits, several businesses and facilities say they are beginning to notice a change in the downtown area. Sam Houpt reports… – Sep 27, 2022

Downtown Peterborough groups say the new safe consumption and treatment services site is making a positive difference in the area.

On Monday, Fourcast, which runs the facility at 220 Simcoe St., reported that there have been nearly 1,600 visits for opioid services since it opened on June 13 — 151 in June, followed by 489 in July and 944 in August.

The site in the former Greyhound bus station offers a safe and clean space for people to consume pre-obtained drugs and receive sterile consumption supplies, eduction and basic medical services, all under the supervision of health professionals — the site does not provide drugs. Other services offered include on-site connections to health, housing and employment, referrals to drug treatment and other social services.

Read more: Peterborough Public Health issues drug poisoning alert following spike in ER visits

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Fourcast reports an average of 31 visits daily to the CTS site. Nearly 50 per cent (48) of service users are using fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is about 50 times as potent as heroin. Ninety-one per cent of clients are between the age of 20 and 49.

There have been nine drug poisonings (overdoses) at the site since the opening but no deaths have been reported, Fourcast says.

Donna Rogers, executive director at Fourcast, says the biggest barrier to opening the site was securing a location after years of lobbying efforts from a number of public health and other groups. She says research has shown CTS sites held reduce overdoses and deaths and reduce public drug use.

“After two years of pleading for space in the downtown, Kevin MacDonald stepped forward to partner on the dream location for this service, and we are beyond grateful for this relationship,” said Rogers. “We are honoured to be hosting the CTS and we will continue to learn and grow from our experiences with the people we serve who have resilience, wisdom and humour beyond compare.”

Terry Guiel, executive director of the Downtown Peterborough Business Improvement Area (DBIA), says since the CTS opened, he has noticed a decline in public use of drugs and discarded needles around the downtown.

“I’ve noticed nothing that could be tied to the site in any negative way,” he said. “I haven’t received one call or email in association with the CTS site and I’ve noticed a great improvement in the downtown in the last several weeks. I have to admit that there is something that has changed and I believe I can attribute a good portion of that to the CTS site. It certainly has not had any of the overdramatic issues that some people thought would occur. It’s good to see these early signs that it is having a positive impact.”

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The Peterborough Public Library’s public washrooms were often used as a site by drug users. Mark Stewart, library services manager, says they’ve noticed a “big drop” in drug-related emergencies in and around the Aylmer Street library.

“Prior to the opening of the CTS, drug poisonings were a common occurrence at the library; now they happen rarely,” he said. “The library staff is in strong support of the CTS and is grateful to have this community resource close by.”

Peterborough Transit also reports changes in response times for opioid-related incidents since the site opened.

“Some Transit staff have noticed a quicker response time to suspected overdoses in the terminal/parking garage areas that may be the result of the clinic having a paramedic on site,” said Laurie Stratton, the city’s transit manager.

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Businesses such as Wild Rock Outfitters on Charlotte St. report their back parking lot is “cleaner.”

“We’ve found less than 10 needles since the end of June. This is a huge reduction as compared to pre-CTS,” said manager Tori Silvera. “It means our staff don’t have to put themselves at risk and pick them up…. It’s gratifying to know that the CTS is working.”

Tegan Moss with nearby Peterborough GreenUp on Aylmer St. says staff have visited the CTS to ask for help if someone non-responsive is found outside their office.

Read more: Ontario commits $1.35M annually for Peterborough safe consumption and treatment site

“This has happened three times and there’s always been a prompt and helpful response,” said Moss. “While the CTS staff made it clear that when they are busy they may not be able to help, so far they have been able to resolve our issues effectively and provide support to people who are struggling. Since the CTS opened, our staff now know where to go for help and we have not had to call the police, which is new.”

The CTS currently uses fentanyl test strips to determine the presence of fentanyl in drugs but doesn’t provide the exact amount. Rogers says soon the CTS will have access to a mass spectrometer, which offers a high level of precision in determining the composition within substances that are consumed.

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“This data can be shared with Peterborough Public Health who are able to compile it alongside related information from paramedics, the hospital and other service providers,” she said. “This helps to inform whether poison drug alerts should be issued in the community.”

According to the health unit’s opioid harms portal, in August there were seven suspected fatal drug poisonings, up from four reported in July. Also in August, there were 46 visits to the emergency department for opioid overdoses, down from 58 reported in July.

The CTS also involves PARN, Peterborough County-City Paramedics and the Peterborough 360 Degree Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic (NPLC)

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