The Canadian Mental Health Association – Simcoe County Branch (CMHA SCB), as lead applicant, has received approval from Health Canada for an exemption to allow the use of illegal drugs at the proposed Consumption and Treatment Services site (CTS) at 11 Innisfil St. (80 Bradford St., unit 940) in Barrie.
The proposed CTS site will provide a safe, hygienic location where people can use illicit substances with the supervision of trained staff, reducing health risks such as overdose and infections. It will also connect people who use drugs to other health and social services that they may want but have difficulty accessing, including mental health and addictions treatment, primary care, and housing.
“We are pleased that Health Canada has granted this exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to operate a consumption and treatment service site in Barrie,” said Dr. Valerie Grdisa, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association, Simcoe County Branch. “This is a significant milestone in addressing the devastating impacts of the opioid crisis affecting our community.”
Although the Health Canada exemption is a critical step in establishing a CTS in Barrie, CMHA SCB continues to await approval from the Ministry of Health on an application submitted to the province in October 2021, including confirmation of funding.
At the same time, CMHA SCB has collaborated with community partners to establish other new Ministry-funded programs to support individuals who use drugs, including the Mobile Withdrawal Management Services, Opioid Outreach Services and six new safe beds, planned to open in winter. 2023.
There continues to be an urgent need to mitigate the harms from the unregulated drug supply that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic (March 2020- March 2022) there have been 323 opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka. This is more than 75 per cent higher than the 182 opioid-related deaths in the 25 months prior to the start of the pandemic (February 2018 – February 2020). These statistics reflect the loss of valued community members who may have benefited from the compassionate, evidence-based health and social support of a CTS in their community.
“We look forward to working with all our community partners and the local residents to establish this essential, life-saving program once we receive confirmation of funding from the Ontario Minister of Health,” said Dr. Grdisa.
CMHA SCB, in collaboration with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and other partner agencies, remains committed to providing opportunities for community education and engagement with residents and businesses within proximity to the site. If the provincial application is approved, a CTS advisory committee will be convened to continue this neighbourhood engagement.
For more information on CTS, including the local application history and past work of the Site Selection Advisory Committee, visit www.smdhu.org/CTS.