‘It’s long overdue’: Peel prepares to open first supervised consumption site

For the first time ever, people who use unregulated drugs in the Peel region will have a safer place to go to consume the substance of their choice.

Earlier this month, Peel councilors voted unanimously to dedicate $5.8 million in bridging funds from a reserve fund to open the region’s first “public health urgent need site.”

The plan is for the Peel Region to initially fund this site for two years, while an application is made to the province for more long-term funding.

Currently, the location of this new program has yet to be determined; however, the goal is to open the site to the public early next year, if not sooner, Dr. Kate Bingham, Peel’s interim medical director of health, told CP24.

Moyo Health and Community Services has already been contracted to operate it, while WellFort Community Health Services will provide clinical support, including nursing services.

Bingham said the opening of a supervised consumption site in the region was first officially identified by Peel Public Health (PPH) in November 2019 when the council adopted the Opioid Peel Strategy. However, he said substance users and their supporters have long requested such a service in Peel.

The project would have moved forward sooner were it not for the pandemic, he said, which has forced PPH to focus its efforts on essential programs and services.

Now that things are slowly getting back to normal as the pandemic subsides, the health unit’s first priority was getting funding to set up Peel’s first supervised consumption site.

“I think (this site) is what the community has needed for a long time. It’s long overdue,” Bingham said.

“This is the first step in a much larger comprehensive plan.”

Among those who helped bring this new harm reduction-focused service to the Peel region is Mississauga resident Marie McKenna, who lost her 29-year-old son, Corey Smigelsky, to poisoning on August 24, 2018. drugs.

Since then, McKenna has lent her voice and dedicated her free time to raising awareness of this crisis and advocating for more services and programs for people who use drugs.

McKenna was one of several people with lived experience who gave powerful and moving presentations at the Peel Regional Council meeting on July 7, where this issue was brought up and ultimately adopted.

“Many families are affected and destroyed by drug use. It’s a lot of pain to bear,” he told CP24 during a recent interview.

“My son should not be dead. He was trying to be clean. He shouldn’t have lost the battle.

McKenna said Corey had been sober for 59 days, but unexpectedly relapsed and died at home after unknowingly consuming a fatal amount of opioids.

And while he kept his drug trip private and may not have chosen to use his drugs at a supervised consumption site, McKenna believes having that and other options available to him could have saved his son’s life.

“Opening this site is huge. I am so proud of the Peel region councilors for listening, for doing the right thing,” she said.

An injection kit is seen inside Fraser Health’s newly opened supervised consumption site in Surrey, BC, on June 6, 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Hope Ramsay, CEO of Moyo and co-chair of the supervised consumption site’s implementation committee, said the drug intoxication crisis has affected many people in Peel.

According to data collected by the Region, between 2017 and 2021, 654 people died from drug toxicity. More than half of those people died alone.

For every fatal overdose, approximately 25 other people overdosed but survived.

Those most affected by Peel overdose are young adults between the ages of 24 and 44.

Ramsay said that in Moyo, which has offered harm reduction programs and services for the past two decades, they have lost approximately 80 community members to drug overdoses since April 2021.

“These were all the people who were connected to our programs and some of our fellow helpers. They died because they didn’t have a place to safely use their substances,” he said.

As Peel moves forward with the site, Ramsay said the community will be consulted every step of the way to ensure everyone’s concerns are heard and needs are met.

“We value your voice at the table. … Now the hard work begins,” she said.

There are currently nine supervised consumer services sites in Toronto, the first of which opened in 2017.

The province funds 15 sites throughout Ontario, but has faced criticism for not helping with the operating expenses of other sites.

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