Council Deals with Unsanctioned Overdose Prevention Site Along with Comments from Local Community Leaders

In News

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
A notice of motion is typically put on the floor at council without discussion, simply as a notification – though a rare departure happened at Monday’s Cobourg council meeting, when they voted for a suspension of rules to allow immediate discussion of the matter.

Mayor Lucas Cleveland’s motion was the result of news that has come out over the past few days of an unsanctioned Overdose Prevention Site that is run by volunteers in a tent that moves from location to location, ostensibly out of concern for individuals seeking to access their harm-reduction services.

The motion states that the town had no previous knowledge of the operation and does not endorse it. It further calls on the proponents of this effort to follow the legal process to operate a supervised consumption site as approved and licensed by Health Canada, which calls for an application process that includes consultations with a broad range of community members.

The motion to deal with the matter immediately was made by Mayor Lucas Cleveland – he was scheduled to meet with the Cobourg Police Service Board the following day, and he wished to bring the motion with him to show that (should it pass in a vote, which it did) it had the support of council.

Chief Administrative Officer Tracey Vaughan was disturbed by allegations that the operation is being carried on with the knowledge of town staff.

In fact, Vaughan said, “that group has consulted with staff in the past in terms of discussing the potential of a consumption site in the abstract. Not with a permanent location, not with the time frame or any specificity. So any remarks or feedback staff have given back to the group has been around sustainable measures to be able to look to implement sanctioned consumption sites through community engagement, an application process.”

“I tend not to speak on things I don’t know about or have the expertise on,” Director of Legislative Services Brett Larmer commented, adding that enforcement measures are in place to ensure any such project “will operate within the confines of those policies and bylaws that are in place.”

Cleveland offered remarks on going through the proper channels.

“When it comes to this type of initiatives, they are long, they are arduous, they are financially difficult. But that does not negate the need to follow the proper procedures,” the mayor said.

“I believe the majority of this community wants to see harm reduced to individuals,” he added, but they also care how the harm is reduced.

“I invite any individual working in harm reduction to fight the good fight by following the policies and procedures that have been laid out before them.”

The debate came at the end of a council meeting that had opened with a presentation by Peterborough AIDS Resource Network Executive Director Dane Record, who also discussed harm reduction in informing councillors of the work his organization does.

Established in 1987 for the support and education of people living with HIV and AIDS-related infections like Hepatitis C, they typically work with 60 families annually in Peterborough, the City of Kawartha Lakes, and the Counties of Haliburton and Northumberland.

And they have harm-reduction programming, working alongside a number of existing organizations like Green Wood Coalition to prevent infection, exposure and new diagnoses. Along with the distribution of condoms and lubricant, this also means provision of tools and resources for those who will be shooting or inhaling illicit drugs.

Record said their work is guided by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

“It continues to be known and recognized that we are one of the leaders in Northumberland County in preventing his HIV diagnoses, new Hep-C diagnoses, transmissions and exposures. Our Hep-C program is second to none in the area,” Record said.

Though they cannot afford a permanent location, they cultivate professional relationships that will put them in touch with neighbourhoods where their work is needed. With one full-time staff and a number of part-timers and volunteers, they work their outreach.

They also work their outreach with a mobile service they hope to bring to Northumberland at some time in the near future.

All of council endorsed Cleveland’s motion except for Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty who abstained.

The motion read as follows:

Subject: Unsanctioned Consumption Sites in the Town of Cobourg

Moved By Mayor Cleveland
Seconded By Councillor Bureau
WHEREAS the Council of the Town of Cobourg and Municipal Staff were unaware of the erection of the Unsanctioned Overdose Prevention Site where individuals are utilizing the use of illicit drug use within the Town of Cobourg; and
WHEREAS the Town of Cobourg does not endorse the operation;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council urges that the Organizers wanting to create this space to follow the legal process to operate a supervised consumption site (SCS) as approved and licensed by Health Canada who may grant exemptions for an SCS after satisfactory completion of an application which includes consultation with a broad range of people in the community.
Carried

Today’s Northumberland reached out to various leaders in the community for comments regarding the Unsanctioned Overdose Prevention Site

Below are the written responses from some of the leaders that were e-mailed.

MPP David Piccini

Opioid addiction is an urgent health crisis that requires a compassionate and coordinated response. Ontario is creating a continuum of care by improving and expanding addictions supports through the Addictions Recovery Fund and the $3.8B Roadmap to Wellness. Consumption and Treatment Sites (CTS) are an important part of the Government of Ontario’s strategy. These sites present an important opportunity for trained health care professionals to guide those in crisis into the continuum of care through intake, detox, treatment, and ultimately recovery. What is being proposed in Cobourg is outside of the continuum of care; and, not being done in collaboration with health care and social service partners. This is both concerning and counterproductive to our shared goals.

 

Cobourg Mayor Lucas Cleveland

I was aware that a safe injection site was always a goal of Missy’s however I was under the impression this group would be following proper procedures to develop a legal facility. I was, therefore, very surprised and disappointed to learn of the site being constructed on private property in town this week. I did not know that this was coming as was inferred by the organisers.

There are processes and guidelines that support the establishment of sanctioned safe consumptions sites. I recognize that these procedures take time, community involvement, patience, monetary resources, and a litany of appropriate skillsets. I know first hand how trying to institute change can be frustrating. However, these rules, procedures and processes are in place to help minimize harm to all involved as well as support the success and sustainability of the project. Establishing these sites must be done in a conscientious manner that does not result in unintended consequences or further injury to our most vulnerable community members.

I do not in any way support this project as it is currently being run or the means in which it was implemented. I am confident that many residents in this community will not either. I am not against the use of safe consumption sites per se, I am however, 100% against this type of illegal activity. I can not and will not support illegal activity no matter how it is framed or justified just because there are some individuals in the community who are unwilling to do the required work and/or don’t have the patience to make changes through the appropriate and legal channels.

 

Cobourg Police Chief Paul VandeGraaf

We aware community members plan to host an overdose prevention site on private property in the Town of Cobourg. Police will respond accordingly should we be called to the property and enact a collaborative response as required, considering several factors, including criminal offences, provincial offences, and municipal standards.

Substance use disorder is a public health issue that requires a coordinated and collaborative approach. The Cobourg Police Service follows the 2020 Federal Crown’s directive on the possession of controlled substances. We do not arrest individuals for simple possession of illicit drugs alone, focusing on more serious cases raising public safety concerns.

Further, we support a four-pillar model: prevention/education, harm reduction, treatment, and enforcement. Supporting harm reduction approaches like supervised consumption and treatment sites in communities can help prevent overdoses and increase access to health and social services. Establishing these sites must be done in a conscientious manner that does not result in unintended consequences negative to communities in terms of criminal activity. I support the process of considering the establishment of a sanctioned safe consumption site through the process and guidelines established by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

We remain committed to the safety of our community and will respond to calls for service as usual.

I have provided links below for your information:

Federal Crown’s position on the possession of controlled substances – https://www.ppsc-sppc.gc.ca/eng/pub/fpsd-sfpg/fps-sfp/tpd/p5/ch13.html

Health Canada: Consumption and Treatment Services: Application Guide – https://health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/opioids/docs/CTS_application_guide_en.pdf

Government of Canada: how to apply for a supervised consumption site – https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/supervised-consumption-sites/apply.html

 

 

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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