Site work is underway at Energy Court in downtown Greater Sudbury, where a supervised consumption site is expected to open in March.
“We’re moving quite quickly on it,” city director of children and social services Tyler Campbell told Sudbury.com.
The facility is a municipal harm reduction effort aimed at helping people who use intravenous drugs and already received city council’s final green light earlier this year.
The only lingering question at this stage is a federal site exemption, which Public Health Sudbury & Districts has applied for and the city assumes it will receive.
As soon as the site is prepared, three used modular trailers will be installed and placed on cribbing. The City of Greater Sudbury has an open tender with a Nov. 19 deadline seeking a company to renovate these three attached trailers’ interiors to accommodate clients’ needs.
Attached to the tender documents is a floorplan for the site, which Réseau ACCESS Network designed using best practices, the organization’s manager of programs and services Heidi Eisenhauer told Sudbury.com.
The site as a whole is intended to come across as comfortable, non-clinical and “meant to be welcoming for all community members,” she said. “And a place that they know they’ll be treated with respect.”
Following the floorplan, the building’s entranceway includes both stairs and a wheelchair ramp to ensure the facility is accessible to everyone, Eisenhauer said.
The front door opens into a waiting area attached to an intake office, after which clients make their way to one of a series of booths where they can inject their drugs. This area is overlooked by nurses on staff who will be equipped to deal with adverse reactions to whatever substance is being administered.
Some testing capacity will also be available to help clients determine dosage.
Also attached to the injections booth area will be a washroom for people to clean themselves, which Eisenhauer said comes as particularly useful among those who inject drugs into their feet.
“Across from there, when people are finished, they can go over and sit in a lounge waiting area,” Eisenhauer said. The lounge will be situated at the centre of the building and includes an exit door at the back of the building. The same as the front door, the back is equipped with stairs and a ramp.
The waiting area allows for “that additional time in case there are any reactions,” Eisenhauer said, adding that it gives people some time to sit before they get up and go about their day.
From beginning to end, clients follow a one-way path through the building, which Eisenhauer said follows not only COVID-19 health measures but generally accepted best practices for supervised consumption sites.
Also included in the space are offices for staff, a staff lounge and an open area where workshops and events can take place. The open area is attached to storage space, where material for various kits will be stored.
Pending whatever COVID-related health measures are in place, staff and volunteers will be able to compile kits in the open area, which can include various things the people they serve might use, such as whatever items they require to ingest smokable products.
Ontario regulations don’t allow for the inhalation of products in the building, but the kits will assist in harm reduction by providing things such as chapstick and mouthpieces.
A manager has already been hired and is ready to come on board by Nov. 22.
“That’s exciting news and we’re very excited about the candidate,” Eisenhauer said, adding that by the time the site opens it’ll include a staff of 16.
In addition to the manager, staff will include nurses, social service workers and community workers — people who are often referred to as peers and are trained in harm reduction.
Greater Sudbury city council committed $1.1 million per year toward the temporary supervised consumption site earlier this year in addition to no more than $800,000 in setup costs.
Although the city’s elected officials face a wealth of demands in 2022 budget deliberations, this expense has already been factored into the draft budget presented by city administration.
The city, meanwhile, is continuing to seek provincial funding for the project, and Campell said that city council will be given an update on these efforts at some point next year.
By the time the supervised consumption site is fully operational, Eisenhauer said people can expect to see improvements in the downtown neighbourhood it’s situated.
“When you’re looking at supervised consumption sites, often in a community there are folks that have a ‘not in my backyard’ attitude, and I think one of the things that I’ve heard from partners in the south is that supervised consumption sites often change the dynamics of a neighbourhood in a positive light because people now have a place to go,” she said.
With a safe, dry, welcoming place to go where they are treated with respect available, she said fewer people will be found using in the community.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.