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Safe consumption site opens to clients Sept. 28

Though delays have prevented its use since the July 21 ribbon cutting, the facility will be open to those who wish to inject substances, but not inhale them, an issue that is preventing some from using the site 

Though administrative delays have kept the doors closed thus far, the Sudbury supervised consumption site, called The Spot/La Place/Minoogawbi, will be opening on Sept. 28

In June of 2020, Public Health Sudbury and Districts completed a study to determine the “need for and feasibilty of implementing supervised consumption services in the City of Greater Sudbury. The city’s drug-related death rate has been the highest per capita in the province for years now. 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 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.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on July 21, but the site did not yet open its doors to clients. Though staffing issues were an initial holdup, there were also delays based on government approvals, including “Ministry of Labour and building permits” said Heidi Eisenhauer, executive director of Réseau ACCESS Network, the organization that runs the site. 

The site is currently two trailers put together, with the entrance on one side and the exit on the other. Those who wish to use the site bring their own substances and check in with the social services or harm reduction workers there. 

Amber Fritz is one of those workers. She took on a tour, showing the area where people are greeted, the area for using substances, and a separate office for those who are looking for service navigation. There are no housing workers on site, nor any first aid for wound care, but those who are trained in overdose detection and resuscitation, as well as trauma-informed care. 

Each cubicle looks onto a mirror to help the substance user inject cleanly, providing a measure of privacy. Not total privacy though, as harm-reduction workers can clearly see individuals as they use and can then intervene if there is an issue with drug toxicity, meaning the substance the person is using is not what they believed it was and therefore they could not accurately judge dose, rather than simply taking too much. 

Each area of the space has an approximate 15-20-minute time limit for members to obtain/use services before they need to move along, as there is only space for up to three people to use substances at a time. 

And use, in this instance, is specifically for injection. There is no facility in Ontario that offers supervised inhalation as there is a need for greater infrastructure, including ventilation systems, that drive up the cost. 

“Inhalation is not something that we're able to offer, but maybe one day,” Fritz told “Without offering inhalation, we recognize that there's certain individuals that will not be able to access this service. And that's really unfortunate.”

Unfortunate as from January 2018 until March 2022, 62 per cent of local opioid-related overdose deaths had evidence of pipe/foil inhalation at the scene of death (23.4 per cent had both injection drug use and inhalation; 38.5 per cent had inhalation only) said Jonathan Laderoute from Public Health Sudbury and Districts. 

“These numbers are quite similar compared to those seen in Northern Ontario,” he said, where evidence of inhalation was present at 60 per cent of overdose deaths. (There were 35 per cent with evidence of injection only; 23 per cent with both). 

In Timmins, inhalation deaths are making up about half the calls that paramedics respond to in the area. 

Timmins has a safe consumption site for injection, open since July. In its first month of operation there were 669 visits, with nearly 200 individuals who use substances attending the site. 

Patrick Nowak, addictions and outpatient mental health programs manager at Timmins and District Hospital, which operates the Safe Health Site Timmins, told the program is working well. 

“We began with approximately 10 visits per day, (but) that steadily increased, now we’re seeing about 50-60 per day, including those needing harm reduction supplies,” he said. 

Since opening, there has been only one overdose requiring attention, and no deaths. 

Nowak said the key to success has been the street outreach, letting people know that the site would be opening, as well as encouraging them to use the site with the knowledge that staff will be trained to recognize an overdose, and avoid Naloxone use if at all possible. If someone is given Naloxone, a fast-acting medication used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid use, without the need for it, they will be ripped from their ‘high’ and sent into almost immediate withdrawal. 

Time spent at the site can be a challenge, as it is meant to be a place for people who use substances to use, get connected with services, and “then move on with their day,” Nowak said. “But people are staying longer depending on what is in the substances. When substances contain substances like benzodiazepines, they may require longer monitoring.”

Clients are also looking for phone, water, snacks, bathroom facilities while at the site. 

“We do see visits specifically for practical support,” said Nowak. “Sometimes it does impact the wait to use booths.”

Women and those who identify as women are “especially appreciative” of the site, Nowak said, as they feel safer from both “theft and from the potential for assault.”

Part of the success of the Timmins site is location. Formerly called the Living Space, the site was previously used as a drop-in centre and therefore part of routine for many of Timmins’ vulnerable populations. 

Sudbury’s location was put downtown in order to be near the existing services, including Réseau ACCESS Network, the Samaritan Centre and the Elgin Street Mission, but with the clearing of the Memorial Park encampment, and increased police presence, many vulnerable people and those who use substances are moving out of the downtown core. has learned of several encampments in both the urban areas and outskirts Greater Sudbury, and while they are not as large as the one in Memorial Park was, they are growing now that the weather has changed. 

Though not all, many residents of these encampments use substances and could be consuming them in harmful ways without the ability to travel to the safe consumption site and then back to their temporary living situation. 

However, something is better than nothing. While the idea behind harm reduction through consumption sites has been floating around since the mid-1990s, it is a tough sell, and particularly to the government. The word ‘enabling’ comes up often. 

But Fritz has an answer to that: “Absolutely, I’m enabling people.” 

She quotes Daniel Raymond, a pioneer in harm reduction. “I am absolutely an enabler,” she quotes,  “I enable people to take control over their health over their lives, to prevent them from contracting hepatitis C or HIV, or worse.”

Fritz said that the safe consumption site is rooted in harm reduction, and within that, is life saving. “We meet people where they're at, we don't judge, we welcome everyone. We just want to make this a safe place where people can come and recognize that someone's got their back.”

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.


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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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