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One year later, The Spot making its mark on drug toxicity crisis

Supervised Consumption Site now has a drug-testing machine which can detect toxicity

It has been almost a year since The Spot, Sudbury’s Supervised Consumption Site, opened its doors to clients. checked in with The Spot and its manager, Amber Fritz, to see how it’s going, what they need, and the lives they’ve saved.

Sudbury's supervised consumption site, The Spot, (Minoogawbi, La Place) held its official opening in July 21 of last year, but due to staffing shortages, couldn’t open until September. 

The Spot has been awaiting funding from the province since it began its operations. Lacking provincial dollars, it’s running on $1.094 million from City of Greater Sudbury coffers, as well as $100,000 from Vale and $30,000 from Wheaton.

In the absence of funding, the site can only run six hours per day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

“We only have so many staff, so we can only operate so many hours a day,” said Amber Fritz, manager of supervised consumption services at The Spot. 

Fritz has been working in front-line harm reduction work in Sudbury for more than a decade. She says she has lost so many people she loved, “I feel horrible saying this, but I've lost track.” 

And as brutal as it feels to forget, it’s hard not to, she said. “Sometimes you'll remember this person and just be like, ‘I can't believe that I forgot about that beautiful human being,’ but, there's just so many,” she said. 

But that’s the point of the site, said Fritz: saving lives. 

The Spot released usage numbers in December 2022, showing that since it had opened at the end of September that year, had seen 126 visits, from 69 unique visitors, and reversed three overdoses linked to the drug-poisoning crisis. Usage per capita is on par with provincial averages and in some instances surpassed figures from other sites. 

And more than that, said Fritz at the time, those three overdoses are three people; three people who are alive today because they chose to use substances at the site. 

Though the yearly numbers have not yet been released, Fritz told in the month of July, there were 153 visits, and 205 consumptions; so far in the month of August, there have been 88 visits and 100 consumptions (as of Aug. 11). 

Fritz said the number of consumptions is higher, as some come to the site multiple times, even in one day. 

And every number counts when the statistics are considered. As per a presentation to Sudbury city council by Ontario’s Chief Coroner, Dirk Huyer, since 2013, 483 people in the Greater Sudbury Area have died from opioid toxicity. 

The rate of opioid toxicity death has increased by almost 200 per cent since 2018; Ontario has only had a 60-per-cent increase. 

Between 2018 and 2022, there was an increase in Sudbury from 26 deaths per year to 116 passing last year in 2022, which Huyer said represents a 346-per-cent increase. Demographics show that opioid deaths are highest amongst those aged 30 to 49, said Huyer.

In addition to offering the services of the supervised consumption site, including life-saving medical assistance, access to social services, a once a month visit from a nurse, or even just a place to find peace and quiet, the site can now offering basic drug testing, beyond a fentanyl test strip that detects the presence of the opioid. 

Rapid drug-testing equipment is now offered at the site.

While its equipment isn’t as sophisticated as some on the market, the system produces results approximately 10 minutes and can detect fentanyl, carfentanil, benzodiazepines, xylazine, cocaine, methamphetamines and MDMA, among other substances, to prevent toxic poisoning.

But the machine has its limitations, owing to the need for The Spot to purchase something affordable rather than what the agency actually needs — a prohibitively expensive, mass spectrometry machine. 

Benefits to the new equipment at The Spot include the ability to use just a small amount of the substance needed for a “trace scan” and to do a bulk scan through the plastic bag the substance is sold in. 

The machine can also differentiate between fentanyl and carfentanil. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. 

It’s commonly used in veterinary medicine for large animals, such as horses. 

Fritz said that testing is a way to check one substance, and also to know if it's circulating widely. Drug checking is an evidence-based harm reduction tool that generates data to identify local trends and increased toxicity and can support drug warnings or alerts with information specific to this region. 

“If we get a positive for carfentanil, then that's something that needs to be shared very widely,” said Fritz. “Even a seasoned user can have a significant adverse reaction or potentially experience a fatal overdose if ingesting Carfentanil because it's so incredibly strong, or toxic as the case may be because it's unregulated.” 

All amounts tested and any unused substances are then disposed of using biohazard methods. 

This service is available to anyone wishing to have their substances checked. The drugs do not have to be consumed at the supervised consumption site to access the service. 

However, those who consume by injection, oral, or nasal routes are welcome to use the consumption room. 

Even with the testing, it is important to use with someone or at The Spot, as the toxic substance may not be evenly distributed. 

If you test a small portion, as you would during a trace scan, that may not mean the rest of the sample is without risk. There could still be something known as a “hotspot,” an area that could still have a toxic substance, like carfentanil, within it.  

“When someone mixes it in a batch, someone can get a hotspot,” Fritz said. “So a seasoned user can drop, or a new person can die.” 

Unlike those who use regulated substances such as cannabis or alcohol, those who use unregulated substances have no idea what they are putting in their body, and often have an addiction to it. 

“Is this machine, is this place going to end the drug poisoning crisis? Absolutely not. We need a multifaceted approach, a multipronged approach,” said Fritz. “These are just tools that we can use at the moment to try and give people a little bit of autonomy, so they have a better understanding of what they're putting into their body, what they're consuming, and what they could unknowingly consume.”

That, and offering kindness, and life-saving aid.  

This is a safe space; I mean, that's kind of our number one priority: we want you to be safe, because the unregulated supply is so unsafe and so volatile, it's so unpredictable and we have no control over that at this exact moment,” said Fritz. “But what we can do is try to counteract some of that by providing a safe place for people to use something that's unregulated.”

Fritz said that for some clients, the site is also where they access most of their services, having restrictions or bans in other places. But they will always be welcome at the site. 

“This is a life-saving service,” said Fritz. “It's not just about people coming in here and using drugs, it's about connections, building trust, building relationships coming in here and being treated with dignity.” 

There's more than 100 consumption sites operating worldwide, said Fritz, and more than 30 years of research behind their efficacy.

“If they didn't work and didn't do what they were intending to do, that wouldn't be the case,” she said. 

When people say it's enabling, or you're just keeping people trapped in their addiction, Fritz said she hopes that people get the other side of the story: “not everyone who uses drugs is addicted, not everyone who uses drugs needs treatment, and treatment doesn't work for everyone,” she said.  

“We tell people, you are an incredible human being, you are worthy of dignity and services and housing and respect and happiness just like anyone else,” said Fritz. “It’s not about money, it’s about people’s lives.”  

For more information about The Spot, click here. 

Jenny Lamothe covers marginalized and vulnerable communities for 



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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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