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Timmins, Sudbury have lost supervised consumption site funding

Timmins and Sudbury have some of the highest rates of opiate use in Ontario, but after this weekend, the cities will no longer have funding for their supervised consumption sites.

The Spot in Sudbury and the Safe Health Site Timmins offer spaces with supports and care for people to use toxic drugs safely, but funding for both runs out after March 31. 

Timmins and Sudbury have an opioid toxicity mortality rate nearly three times the provincial average, according to data from the Office of the Chief Coroner.

The city of Sudbury funded the Spot from its opening in 2022 until December last year, after which donations kept it afloat through March. The city of Timmins also funded its supervised consumption site from its 2022 opening until December last year. The city’s hospital then provided funding for the next three months.

Like the site in Sudbury, the Timmins site was expected to close after March, but in an email Sunday, a spokesperson for Timmins and District Hospital said the site will remain open after March 31, though no other details were made available.

Both sites have applied for provincial funding before the province announced a pause on funding applications for supervised consumption sites in the fall, but staff at both sites say they haven’t heard back. 

A young woman in glasses is shown from the waist up at a supervised consumption site reception desk
Kaela Pelland, director of peer engagement at Réseau ACCESS Network, says she expects more overdose fatalities in Sudbury after the city’s only supervised consumption site closes. (Bienvenu Senga/Radio-Canada)

Kaela Pelland, director of peer engagement at Réseau ACCESS Network, which runs the site, says she expects more fatal overdoses to happen in these communities as a result.

“What we’re trying to do is keep people alive,” she said, “and keep people as well as possible and provide safety for, not only people who use drugs, but for the community around them.”

‘I just felt safer’

Kevin Peltier was a client at the Spot, and says he’s worried about what could happen if he doesn’t have a supervised site to use drugs.

“I just felt safer, you know, knowing that there was, you know, trained medical staff on site,” he said.

A young man in a hoodie is shown from the waist up standing on a city street on a grey day
Kevin Peltier says the supervised consumption site in Sudbury made him feel safer when using toxic substances. (Bienvenu Senga/Radio-Canada)

Jason Sereda, a community worker in Timmins, says people struggling with toxic substance use need these sites even if they aren’t inclined to stop using.

“We need those services that really meet people wherever they’re at,” he said. 

“Whether that means being ready to go to detox or ready to, you know, access more intensive treatment. It also means being available and ready to support those people who aren’t at the place where they want to stop using drugs.”

Staff at the Timmins site told CBC in early March that since opening in 2022, they had managed over 350 overdoses.

Provincial funding applications still paused

The province funds 17 supervised consumption and treatment sites. The province paused new funding applications after a woman was killed by a stray bullet following an incident outside a supervised consumption site in Toronto’s east end last year.

In an email, Hannah Jensen, a spokesperson for Ontario’s minister of health Sylvia Jones, said the province is continuing to pause applications while it reviews all 17 sites. 

“These reviews remain ongoing and will inform the next steps taken by the Ministry of Health including funding, location and application decisions,” she wrote.

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