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Health unit clarifies locations for proposed supervised consumption site

'I thought it would be suitable because it wouldn’t have a big impact on the neighbourhood,' says building owner

The City of Barrie’s odd street design is likely to blame for confusion around the address for one of the proposed locations for a supervised consumption site (SCS).

Steve Sperling, owner of Aerarium Group, a real estate development and property management company, told BarrieToday that while one of the proposed sites is in fact connected to the Barrie by the Bay building at 80 Bradford St., which is the address the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has listed on its website, the actual site address is 19 Innisfil St.

“Barrie is a very strange city and the building at 80 Bradford St., is a whole entire block. The back part of the building fronts onto Innisfil Street and is 19 Innisfil St.,” he said. “It’s a very very specific entrance on Innisfil Street and doesn’t have access to the rest of the building, whereas 80 Bradford St., has 140 tenants that are using the doors.”

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.

Sperling said he proposed the building given its proximity to the downtown core.

“I thought it would be suitable because it wouldn’t have a big impact on the neighbourhood, as it’s a large industrial building, and it's just an open storage compound across the street,” he said.

“I believe in humanity (and) I can’t believe what the City of Barrie is doing for the homeless and the opioid problem," Sperling added. "This is going at least three years, with the city doing very little about it. They should have put it in the (David) Busby Centre, but because of the old NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) situation... they held it up and held it up. Meanwhile, people are dying.”

Health unit officials reached out to their realtor and have confirmed the correct address is in fact 19 Innisfil St., although the general location remains the same. "We will be correcting the address in all of our communications," said a spokesperson. 

The city reportedly has drug overdose rates that are eight times higher than the provincial average, according to data from the local health unit. Between January and mid-September 2020, the health unit says there were 94 confirmed and probable opioid-related deaths in the Simcoe-Muskoka region, 47 of which were in Barrie. The rate in Barrie was twice as high for this time period in 2020 to date compared to the average of 2017-19.

The Canadian Mental Health Association's Simcoe County Branch and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit are applying to the province to operate an SCS in Barrie. With help from the site selection advisory committee, they plan to bring a "viable option" to the Barrie city council for endorsement.

Community members have also been invited to offer their opinion on the proposed locations by filling out an online survey, which is available until March 31.