News last week the provincial government is ending funding for six of the 21 safe injection sites in Ontario won't impact plans in Greater Sudbury to study the idea, an official said Monday.
Chantal Belanger, a public health nurse with Public Health Sudbury and Districts, said members of the Community Drug Strategy are awaiting the results of a needs assessment and feasibility study.
“Once we complete the study, that will give us information and data to see if there is an actual need to proceed for an application for a supervisor,” Belanger said.
City council agreed in late November to provide $60,000 of the $80,000 required to complete the study. The first such site in North America opened in 2003 in Vancouver. A February 2018 report (https://agendasonline.greatersudbury.ca/index.cfm?pg=feed&action=file&attachment=22367.pdf ) to city council said safe injection sites have been well-documented to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths, as well as the number of addicts injecting themselves in public.
There has been no evidence they increase crime, and instead can lead to more referrals to health and social services, including detoxification and drug treatment programs.
Belanger said the local feasibility study is still in the early stages.
“We are currently waiting for the final ethics approval to start to be able to start the data collection,” she said. “We're also in the process of finalizing the recruitment of the research officer.”
Approved last November, the study is expected to take roughly a year to complete.
“Once it's completed, it'll give us a lot of information in regards to community needs,” Belanger said. “That information will be brought to the community drug strategy, and from there, there will be evaluation and assessment to determine if there is a need to proceed for an application for a supervised consumption service.”
While the province is closing six safe injection sites, it is still reviewing and taking applications from other communities that want to establish new ones in their community.
Opioid addiction is an epidemic in North America, and recent stats show the problem is getting worse in Sudbury. A January report to the emergency services committee found that calls for paramedics to respond to overdoses have grown by 88 per cent since 2015, with November and December 2018 the two worst months on record, when staff responded to 22 and 23 calls respectively.
In raw numbers, there were 58 calls to Greater Sudbury paramedics in 2015 related to an opioid overdose; in 2018, there were 173.
While no solutions are on the horizon, Belanger said educating yourself on the danger of opioid use and harm reduction strategies is a good first step.
“We're also looking at educating and creating awareness on how to properly pick up and dispose of used needles,” she said, encouraging residents to visit the Community Drug Strategy web page. “There's a lot of information in regards to education health promotion enforcement and harm reduction strategies that individuals can look and learn from.”