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‘More lives will be lost’ if The Spot closes: RNAO president

The Spot, Sudbury’s only sanctioned supervised consumption site, is slated to close at the end of February due to a lack of funding
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario president Dr. Claudette Holloway speaks to local media at the Public Health Sudbury and Districts offices on Friday, during which she expressed support for The Spot, Sudbury's only sanctioned supervised consumption site.

The consequence of closing Greater Sudbury’s only sanctioned supervised consumption site is fairly straightforward, a leading medical professional in the province told local media.

“More lives will be lost,” Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) president Dr. Claudette Holloway said. 

“We should be concerned about that. We need to be concerned about every Ontarian.”

Drilling down into this claim, Public Health Sudbury and Districts health promoter Nicole Gauthier said the supervised consumption site received 1,961 visits last year.

Of those visits, 20 overdoses were reversed on site.

“When we’re talking about lives saved, that’s a tangible number,” she said. 

Called The Spot, the city’s only sanctioned supervised consumption site is slated to close by the end of February.

With the province declining to step up with funding despite years of municipal advocacy, the downtown centre had been funded by the City of Greater Sudbury on a temporary basis. That was, until city council voted in December to cease funding by the end of the month, citing the fact health care is under the province’s jurisdiction.

(Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc and Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann voted to provide funding to keep the site open until the end of July, but their effort was not supported by the balance of city council.)

Since that time, Vale Base Metals made a $75,000 donation to keep the site open until the end of January, and anonymous donations have allowed it to remain open to the end of February.

The RNAO met with local public health leaders on Friday to discuss The Spot, visit the site and discuss their support for its continued operations.

A handful of these leaders met with local media at the Public Health Sudbury and Districts offices afterward to discuss how the day’s meetings went, and what they’re advocating for.

Receiving money from the province appears unlikely at this time. In response to a shooting at a supervised consumption site in Toronto, the province put a pause on funding until new safety protocols are developed.

This, RNAO Sudbury and District Chapter communications executive network officer Neil Stephen said, despite the fact that the introduction of supervised consumption sites generally results in a reduction of crime rates and drug paraphernalia to the surrounding neighbourhood.

(Opponents often cite a 2019 report commissioned by the Alberta government as evidence crime rates increase and discarded needles are more abundant after supervised consumption sites open, but the study has since been dismissed by some researchers as “pseudoscience,” and “methodologically flawed with a high risk of multiple forms of bias.”)

The RNAO is advocating for bridge funding from the province while their safety review is underway, so The Spot can remain open.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones “needs to pay attention to lives being lost here, particularly in the north,” Holloway said, noting the rate of opioid deaths in Northern Ontario are significantly higher than the provincial rate. 

From January 2023 to August 2023, 54 people from the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts died from an opioid-related overdose, which represents 38.9 deaths per 100,000 population compared to the provincial rate of 17.4.

Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services responded to 651 suspected opioid-related incidents in 2023, and there were 370 emergency department visits in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts for confirmed opioid overdoses (177.4 per 100,000 population, versus an 81.5 per 100,000 population for Ontario as a whole).

“We don’t understand what the delay (in funding) is,” Holloway added.

“We need sustainable funding. ... When you fund this kind of a treatment centre it’s going to have an impact and reduce the pressures on hospitals and emergency rooms.

“Most of all, we need to understand that lives need to be saved.”

Harm reduction efforts such as supervised consumption sites are an important part of the equation, she said. 

When there, she added that those using substances “may want to make a different choice, and we have to be there with those options so they can receive the treatment they need to take a different direction that would help them improve the health and direction of their life.”

The RNAO’s support joins similar backing from other organizations, including Sudbury and District Public Health, Greater Sudbury Police Service, CAMH, NOSM University, HIV Legal Network, Sudbury & District Restorative Justice, and the Canadian Shield Regional Council of The United Church of Canada. Their letters of support are available by clicking here.

Area NDP MPPs Jamie West (Sudbury) and France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) have also been advocating for provincial funding toward keep The Spot open.

Existing facility in a less-than ideal location

A map shows the location of The Spot in relation to the Samaritan Centre. . Image: Google Maps

Greater Sudbury’s existing supervised consumption site, at the Energy Court parking lot behind Chris’s Independent grocery store, is “cast out” with “fences all around,” Holloway said.

It’s next to railroad tracks, which some people may cross illegally and “put their lives in danger.”

A more ideally located supervised consumption site in Toronto is attached to a community health centre, she said.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Association of Ontario president Dr. Paul-André Gauthier said the existing location is “too far.”

“How come it’s that far?” he asked. “This should be maybe next to the old train station, because there’s a parking lot right across from the Samaritan (Centre).”

People congregate around the Samaritan Centre, where they receive meals, so it would only make sense for a supervised consumption site to be located in its proximity, he argued.

More people would use the facility, which he said would result in more lives being saved.

Google Maps directions reveal The Spot is 1.4 kilometres away from the Samaritan Centre, which is a 20-minute walk.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for



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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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