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City clears final hurdle on supervised consumption site

Long-awaited federal exemption allows Greater Sudbury to move forward on a facility where users can inject drugs under the supervision of medical professionals, promises to make a big dent in the overdose crisis
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The future supervised consumption site is seen at Energy Court, off Lorne Street. It was originally expected to have opened by the end of March.

The Community Drug Strategy for the City of Greater Sudbury is celebrating the announcement from Health Canada that they will grant a long-awaited a federal exemption to allow for operation of a supervised consumption site near downtown Sudbury.

With a planned opening at the end of March delayed by construction woes and global supply chain issues, there was also the need to obtain federal exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to operate the facility. 

The approval of the exemption from Health Canada is the final element required to complete the provincial application for a funded supervised consumption and treatment site.

The site will be located at Energy Court, just off Lorne Street.

Réseau ACCESS Network is currently in the process of recruiting health-care professionals, namely nurses or primary care paramedics, to meet the minimum staffing requirements to open and begin offering services. 

Once staff is hired, the 24 Energy Court site will be operational with intended service hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., 365 days a year.

“This is a significant milestone for Sudbury’s community, knowing that this site will soon be up and running,” said Heidi Eisenhauer, executive director of Réseau ACCESS Network. “We know that sites like these save lives, and that they are one of the necessary interventions in our current overdose crisis.”

Site work on the supervised consumption site began last year and consists of three modular used trailers placed on cribbing and linked together side by side.

The facility, approved by city council last summer at a startup cost of no greater than $800,000 and an annual operational cost of $1.1 million, is a harm reduction effort that allows drug users a place to inject drugs while being supervised by medical professionals. 

During 2022 budget deliberations in December, city council reaffirmed their commitment to the project, but credited its $1.1-million operational cost on a provincial investment they have yet to receive.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Public Health Sudbury & Districts medical officer of health and co-chair of the Community Drug Strategy, thanked all community stakeholders, noting, “While we still have a long way to go in addressing harms related to substance use, we are grateful for all the hard work from citizens and community partners to help us get here today. Supervised consumption sites are an important part of a multi-prong approach to addressing the local drug poisoning tragedy.”

Mayor Brian Bigger echoed Sutcliffe’s sentiment.

“It is wonderful to see our community partners another step closer to opening,” said Bigger in the same press release. “City council moved this project forward quickly, and staff worked hard to prepare the site so our partners can better reach those who use substances and connect them with health and social services. I have no doubt these services will help address the effects of the opioid crisis in Greater Sudbury and save lives.”

Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe also weighed in by press release.

“We know that safe consumption sites save lives,” Lapointe said. “This site is an essential part of our community’s plan to reduce overdose deaths caused by the current opioid crisis; we are responding to a real and urgent community need.”

Community Drug Strategy co-chair, Chief Paul Pedersen, shared his support and acknowledgement of the multi-team effort. 

“Establishing this site is a response to a local call to action. We heard, we listened, and we are grateful that the doors to this service will soon be open,” he said in a release. 

For more information on supervised consumption sites, please visit the Community Drug Strategy’s website at PHSD.ca/cds or call Reseau ACCESS Network at 705-885-0500.