On July 21, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place for the long-awaited supervised consumption site in Sudbury, located on 24 Energy Court.
Around 50 people attended the event held by Réseau ACCESS Network (the agency administering the supervised consumption site service), with various stakeholders on hand, including local politicians and representatives from Public Health & Sudbury Districts (PHSD), the Community Drug Strategy Committee, Vale and Wheaton Precious Metals.
The facility received no provincial funding, but has received $1.094 million in funding from the City of Greater Sudbury, as well as $100,000 from Vale and $30,000 from Wheaton.
The idea behind supervised consumption sites was floated decades ago, back in 1996, but it was only after the opioid crisis really took off that governments began to look seriously at the model.
“Since 1996, the movement has been directed, but since 2018, the Community Drug Strategy has moved the program forward,” Heidi Eisenhauer, executive director of Réseau ACCESS Network told Sudbury.com in an interview at the event.
The city’s drug-related death rate has been the highest per capita in the province for years now, those on hand were told. Earlier this year in May, PHSD revealed that more than 100 people had died from opioid related overdoses in 2021 and Sudbury continued to have the highest per capita death rate.
In May 2021, city council voted unanimously in favour of a motion directing staff to exhaust all avenues in order to find a site for these services, and in June that year council selected the property off Energy Court to be the designated location for a temporary supervised consumption site.
“The supervised Consumption Site took years of sustained effort from multiple groups and individuals to make a reality,” Neil Stephen, manager of consumption and treatment service at Réseau ACCESS Network said in a press release.
Speaking on behalf of Vale, spokesperson Danica Pagnutti said the facility will save lives.
“We are facing a poisoning drug crisis in our community, and this supervised consumption site will save many lives,” Pagnutti said at the event.
One person at the event attested to how the site will save lives, speaking from her own personal experience. Tammy Berger, who is now a harm reduction worker at the new supervised consumption site, spoke to how Réseau ACCESS Network changed her life.
“I was using drugs since I was 15 … and I moved out of home when I was 16, because of the abuse that was going on. So I just moved to the streets and just slept wherever I could,” Berger told Sudbury.com in an interview.
The now-46-year-old harm reduction worker found Réseau ACCESS Network at the age of 25, and began work providing outreach services and making Naloxone kits.
“Réseau ACCESS Network changed my life,” Berger said. “They listened to my thoughts and my feelings. It simply reminded me that I'm not alone and people out there love me.”
When it comes to the supervised consumption site and the impact it will have, Berger was unequivocal.
“If we had this consumption site back then, I would have been able to start my journey to recovery sooner,” she said. “At the [supervised] consumption site, I hope I play a role and reduce the stigma, discrimination and help those who need it and use drugs here in Greater Sudbury.”
Once at full-capacity and funding, the site will be open for service between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“So there are varying hours (as of right now) based on the number of staff that are funded. So right now with the city, I believe, there will be set hours, and then once provincial funding comes in, if everything is successful, then there will be additional hours added on to that to meet the needs of the community,” Eisenhauer said.
The agency expects to have the facility fully operational by mid to late August.
The supervised consumption site is located on 24 Energy Court, right behind Chris’ Your Independent Grocer on Lorne Street. The consumption site does have a website, but it’s currently under construction. The link to the website can be visited here.