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Network sounds warning bell about consumption site closure

Sixteen employees have been given layoff notices said executive director of Réseau ACCESS Network 

Sixteen workers at Sudbury's supervised drug consumption site have been put on notice that they will likely be losing their jobs on Dec. 31.

The information was revealed at a news conference held today at Réseau ACCESS Network, the organization that operates The Spot, the supervised consumption site located at 24 Energy Court behind the Lorne Street Beer Store. 

The Spot is in danger of closing because the province has not stepped forward to provide appropriate funding to keep the Sudbury site in operation. For the past year, The Spot has been funded by a one-time allocation of $1.094 million from the City of Greater Sudbury, as well as $100,000 from Vale and $30,000 from Wheaton Precious Metals.

Heidi Eisenhauer, executive director of Réseau ACCESS said the consumption site is an important step in treating the people that seek assistance for consuming drugs. The idea of the supervised site is that it is a non-judgmental venue where people who are addicted can go to administer their substances in a clean and safe environment.

If those people experience any medical difficulty or are in danger of overdosing, there are experienced health professionals on site who can help them. 

It was just over a year ago that the Sudbury site was opened and in that time 300 clients have come forward to use the service. In that time, 17 suspected overdose incidents have been reversed.

Eisenhauer said it was because of the staff at the site that people were kept alive.

"And I want to note the dedicated staff that provide that service have been given their notice," said Eisenhauer.

She said the Sudbury site, like a similar site in Timmins, will be closing the service on Dec. 31 if the province does not come through with funding.

That's the frustrating issue for Sudbury MPP Jamie West, who also spoke out at the news conference. West noted there are 21 supervised consumption sites across Ontario, but only 17 are getting the provincial money.

He said there is no logical reason that Sudbury is not included. West said he confronted Michael Tibollo, the associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions about the need for funding, but West said his request was denied.

“The associate minister said that they are currently reviewing the funding," said West.

"But here are the facts. There was a review that was done five years ago. Only 17 out of Ontario's 21 sites have been funded. And the rest of the funding hasn't been released yet. The Spot application for funding was submitted two years ago, in August 2021," said West.

He noted the five big cities in Northern Ontario — Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins — have the highest per capita numbers for opioid drug deaths.

"The Conservative government continues to turn a blind eye. We're done waiting. The North deserves equity. We are as important as anywhere else in Ontario," said West.

His concern was echoed by Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, the NDP health critic, who said Queen's Park does not seem to understand the urgency of the Sudbury request.

"We know full well that in last year 112 people died of overdose in our community and in our region. We know full well that in this year alone, 17 people had their lives saved because of the good people who work at The Spot," said Gélinas. 

"So what will happen on Jan. 1, if the Ford government doesn't backtrack and fund The Spot?" she asked. "People will die."

Also speaking out at the news conference was Amber Fritz, the manager of The Spot who said the closing would be a backward move for Sudbury.

“Once it's gone, there isn't another one that people can access that removes the only safe supervised indoor space for people to consume drugs,” said Fritz.. 

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented drug poisoning crisis. This is not the time to remove a life saving service. This is going backwards, not forwards. This is not supporting members of this community. This is not supporting them to stay alive.”

Len Gillis covers health care stories and also mining news for


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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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