Today’s Northumberland Tracks Down Unsanctioned Overdose Prevention Site

In Editor Choice, Local

True to their word, organizers of a Unsanctioned Overdose Prevention Site held another one on Friday, March 24, 2023.

At this time, Today’s Northumberland can only confirm the one site that was held in Victoria Park starting at 7 p.m.

The previous Friday, there was another one held in downtown Cobourg.

One person who seemed to be in charge of the site on Friday, did not wish to give her name, but stated the site/tent on Friday was for educational purposes.

But during conversations with Today’s Northumberland, a person used the tent, while shouting obscenities.

The program has previously been described by organizers as a “unsanctioned volunteer-powered, donation funded initiative.”

In a previous interview, organizer, Missy McLean said she welcomes the controversy surrounding what is happening as it would bring more attention to what is happening.

The tents are meant for people to use illegal drugs in a, “safe, non-judgmental space to consume their drugs.”

Organizers said they do not supply the illegal drugs to people who use the tents.

Below are comments from local leaders about the OPS

 

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

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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