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Health officials clarify location of proposed supervised consumption site... again

'What I’m concerned about is who vetted this location and who actually came to see it to make sure the description fit what they were getting, because that matters a great deal,' says neighbourhood resident

For the second time in two months, more confusion has been created over the potential location of a proposed supervised consumption site (SCS) near downtown Barrie. 

An SCS provides a safe space and sterile equipment for individuals to use pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of health-care staff. Consumption refers to taking opioids and other drugs by injection, smoking, snorting or orally.

The search for a location was carried out by the lead applicant, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Simcoe County Branch, and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit as co-applicant, along with the SCS site selection advisory committee.

Health officials behind the application announced Thursday that the address for their preferred location would be 19 Innisfil St., which, upon closer inspection, appears to be a loading-bay area at the very back of the Barrie by the Bay complex.

However, BarrieToday has now been told the more accurate address is 11 Innisfil St., which is clearly marked on the exterior and accessible directly from the street, meaning a person would not need to enter the loading-dock area. 

The discrepancy in addresses has caused considerable confusion for those looking for the exact site where the SCS could be situated.

On Friday, building owner Steve Sperling told BarrieToday that “80 Bradford St. is the front of the building and 19 Innisfil is considered the back. It (19 Innisfil St.) is the back where the warehouse part is and there are two doors on Innisfil Street for office entrance."

Along Innisfil Street, there are two doors that are clearly marked No. 9 and No. 11. The only sign indicating 19 Innisfil is inside a large parking lot area used for transport trucks and other delivery vehicles. The faded sign for 19 Innisfil is on a wall beside a large warehouse door and, when seen, has implied to some people that the warehouse is the entrance for 19 Innisfil.

In a later phone call on Friday evening, Sperling further clarified that the address for the proposed SCS would be 11 Innisfil.

Valerie Grdisa, chief executive officer for the Simcoe County branch of the CMHA, says they were also told it didn't matter whether 11 or 19 Innisfil St., was used in their announcement. 

“The number 11 was put there from a previous tenant, so as to distinguish from the warehouse area in the back,” Grdisa said Friday. “It doesn’t actually exist, from what I understand, and the address used by many is 19 Innisfil St.”

When plugged into Google Maps, however, both 9 and 11 Innisfil St. are searchable locations, as is 19 Innisfil St., which is shown as the warehouse area.

This is not the first time the proposed location for the SCS has been perplexing to some observers. 

Back in March, the site had been identified as 80 Bradford St., Unit 940, in an initial news release of four short-listed sites. The others were 110 Dunlop St. W., Unit 4, 11 Sophia St. W., and 192 Bradford St. That was later cleared up, as 80 Bradford is part of the building that continues onto Innisfil Street, but where there are separate entrances. The two portions of the building are not accessible from each other.

Neighbourhood resident David Moore has raised his concerns about location and why the address matters. 

“What I’m concerned about is who vetted this location and who actually came to see it to make sure the description fit what they were getting, because that matters a great deal,” he told BarrieToday.

Moore has lived at the corner of Innisfil and Perry streets for 20 years, right across from the building that's being proposed to house the SCS.

As a resident who lives close to the proposed site, Moore participated in the consultation process that included information seminars and an online survey. The homeowner said he'd brought up concerns about the address and told health unit officials at a Zoom meeting.

“That was just a few weeks ago, where we were able to log in and join the meeting. That was the second time I had been in touch with those running the process," Moore told BarrieToday. “The first time around was when the initial news stories were coming out and the location was identified as 80 Bradford St., Unit 940.

"There seemed to be a lot of confusion about that address and how it was being advertised. That was my first concern," he added. 

The 80 Bradford address was used again this week, albeit in brackets, when the health unit announced the preferred site. The release stipulates the address of the proposed location as 19 Innisfil.  

Moore says he has raised the address issue at least three times with officials behind the application and was told they were looking into it. At one of the consultation meetings it was brought up again and Moore said it seemed to catch people off guard. 

“If it is 11 Innisfil St., then there is a clear issue with accessibility as these metal steps and anyone with a disability cannot get in the door," he said. "It's also steps from homes, right across the street.”

Grdisa says the accessibility with the potential site will not be a problem.

“If the site is given the go-ahead, we will be doing the proper renovations to meet the proper codes,” Grdisa said. “There will also be a fence put up to give privacy to anyone coming and going, as well as for the neighbours to have their privacy.”

Despite his concerns about the address confusion, Moore says he backs the site, even in his own neighbourhood.

“I’m absolutely supportive of this in my neighbourhood. I live right near Milligan's Pond and we love it here, always have,” he said. “There is obviously a bit of a concern with what the SCS may look like in the neighbourhood. That is the great unknown, but it's an embarrassment that we don’t already have this service in our city.

"I absolutely empathize with what is trying to be done here," Moore added. 

Grdisa said she believes the problem can be solved by taking down the sign currently identifying the door entrance as No. 11 and putting up a more noticeable 19 Innisfil sign.

Endorsement of the proposed SCS location will be sought at a presentation to Barrie city council on May 25.

If endorsement is received, an application to the federal government for exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and to the provincial government for their approval for funding, will be completed and submitted.


Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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