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Weekly Independent Local News
Friday, November 11, 2022

Consumption and Treatment sites and their impact on communities

BY VANESSA STARK

It is no secret that tent cities are popping up all over the country, bringing the subject of drug use and community safety into questions. Peterborough County is no exception, experiencing this issue along with other cities across the country. However, this year, Peterborough opened a Consumption and Treatment site (CTS) to help with this concern.

On Nov. 20, Pierre Poilievre, leader of the conservative party of Canada posted a video on social media stating that Vancouver, BC, is on track to have over 2000 drug overdose deaths this year alone.

In the video which can be found through his YouTube channel, Poilievre sits near the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver in front of a tent city and states, “in that tent city are people hopelessly addicted to drugs, putting poisons in their body. They’ve probably lost their homes, their families. They’ve lost control of their lives, and they may lose their lives all together…Many people got hooked on these drugs by taking them first as medications and then increasing their dosage and then eventually becoming outright addicts. it’s not just crack cocaine and methamphetamine but its opioids that are in the same family of drugs that are often prescribed, they’re over prescribed. But the addictions that we see that have terrorized these people and our communities, they are the result of a failed experiment. This is a deliberate policy by woke liberal and NDP governments to provide taxpayer funded drugs, flood our streets with easy access to these poisons. This has been tried, not just in Vancouver but in places such as Los Angles, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and always with the same results: major increases in overdoses, and a massive increase in crime. Here in Canada under Justin Trudeau, we’ve not only had this 300 per cent increase in overdose deaths in British Columbia, but across Canada violent crime has increased 32 per cent…”

Though the video is not clear as to what policy Poilievre is referring to, Carolyn Bennett, Liberal MP for Toronto responded to his claims via twitter stating, “This is not true. Pushing this view on harm reduction during a toxic drug and overdose crisis is irresponsible. Supervised consumption sites have reversed 41K overdoses since 2017 without one death.”

MPP for Peterborough Kawartha, Dave Smith told the Herald, “Based on the research that I have seen from the Ministry of Health, Mr. Poilievre is not incorrect in his statement and that is why Ontario made the conscious decision to shift to Consumption and Treatment Sites.”

Smith said that a CTS site is designed to build trust with an individual to provide them with a pathway to treatment when they are ready, with the ultimate goal of sobriety. This is different from a safe injection site, Smith said which only has the purpose to facilitate an injection drug users continued use.

“I was very clear from the beginning of the process that Peterborough would not have an injection site, but rather Peterborough would have Consumption and Treatment Site with a focus on building pathways to help those individuals who used the services, find an avenue that leads to sobriety… Although the CTS is part of the continuum, we will continue to explore how we can add more supports and more services for our area so that more individuals can take that step toward sobriety.”

In Peterborough specifically, there have been over 3,000 visits to the CTS located at 220 Simcoe Street.

Evan Brockest , Health Promoter in Peterborough Public Health’s Family and Community Health department said, “If you think about each of those visits representing a potential death or injury that’s been averted, or an opportunity to connect to treatment or other services, or a needle that’s not showing up in a park, or a public place, or an opportunity for someone to use drugs in a safe setting where their needs are being addressed, I think we can extrapolate from that what some of the impacts might be, you know, at sort of a ground level.”

The CTS in Peterborough opened in June of this year through the help of many community partners.

Dona Rogers Executive Director of Fourcast, operator of the CTS said that, “Creating the consumption and treatment site was only possible because of strong community collaborations that demonstrated the need for the service. These collaborations continue which supports the vision of 220 Simcoe being a response hub for those struggling with Opiates. The CTS service user is supported by PARN’s harm reduction works program and Fourcast’s mobile outreach team (MSORT) at 220 Simcoe to provide links to community services and other addiction treatment options.”

Poilievre stated in the House of Commons on Nov. 22, “31,000 Canadians lost their lives to over doses. If you take a walk down streets like East Hastings in Vancouver you will see tent cities where adults are laying face first on the pavement having just completed their most recent dose, not sure whether they will actually awaken. Where police and social workers literally have to scour the streets 24/7 to check pulses of people lying on the pavement, not as extraordinary circumstances or one-time emergencies, but daily events. In fact, there were 71,069 Canadians who died of over doses in 2021, 21 people are dying every single day of over doses. That is up from 11 per day.”

However, MP for Peterborough Kawartha, Michelle Ferrier told the Herald, “I have also visited Insite in East Hastings Vancouver, which is three levels, the first floor is supervised consumption and treatment services, the second floor is detox and treatment, and the third floor is transitional housing.  I believe consumption and treatment services provide a role of intervention, but we need a robust plan for treatment and recovery.”

Brockest said that, “I can appreciate there are diverse views on this subject. However, I think that we really do need to stick to the facts. What we know is that there are approximately 38 services operating across this country and there has not been a single overdose in any of these settings. So, we know that these services can be very effective in reducing drug related deaths and I think that should be a central focus of our efforts. And the other thing that we know is that these services provide opportunities to engage with services and provide opportunities for engagement that might not otherwise happen.”

He then went on to say, “We see other benefits in terms of reducing the risk factors associated with blood borne infections, such as HIV and hepatitis, we actually see these services playing a role in promoting increase access to detox and drug treatment services. So, we know that this is a very complex issue. No, single intervention is going to provide a one fits all solution, we actually need a continuum of supports that ranges from harm reduction and treatment, and they’re not mutually exclusive, right? They can work together and they can strengthen our response. One thing that I would really emphasize is that there is no evidence that supervised consumption sites impact crime, or leads to increase drug use in the community and several studies have actually found that the opposite is true.”

Brockest also said that this issue is not just one facing the City of Peterborough but all of Peterborough County.

“I think we need to acknowledge that drug use looks different and in rural communities, obviously there are less people and people are more spread out in terms of those geographies. With that said, we know that drug use is occurring in the county and in our townships. And I think, one thing to recognize is that there’s often challenges associated with privacy and anonymity and I think that’s by virtue of the size of some of our communities. People might have a desire to not have their issues, be disclosed. And so that’s a real barrier to accessing support.”

The CTS in Peterborough, located at 220 SimcoE Street is a service that is open to everyone throughout the County.  

Brockest said that if someone has obtained drugs that they are looking to consume, they can go to the CTS where they will be greeted by an intake worker who will then ask for some limited details about the participants experience such as the drugs that they like to use, previous overdose history, any kind of medical needs that they might want to address or discuss. And after that point, they will be assigned to a booth where they can consume the drugs that they brought with them.

Throughout the process, visitors to the CTS are monitored by health professionals as well as harm reduction workers who can intervene in the event of a medical emergency. That monitoring and care extends beyond the use of drugs itself, Brockest said, as after visitors have used their pre-obtained drugs, they’ll move to an after-care area, where they continue to be monitored.  

“And really importantly there are other services that are co-located with this. So, we have some primary care supports for things like wound care. We have, opportunities to connect with the mobile support overdose resource team which is a direct outreach program that’s co-located with the CTS and so they can really support people by referring into other services connecting to other supports whether it’s housing, food, or other basic needs.”

For more information on the CTS, visit fourcast.ca/CTS.