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More than 100 people turn out to learn about consumption site application

'They are coming to learn, which I'm happy to see. There have been some negative comments, but for the most part it's been positive. We're getting a lot of great questions'

More than 100 people visited the Barrie City Hall Rotunda tonight to get more information about a proposed supervised consumption site to help combat the local drug problem.

An application is being prepared for a Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) facility, which will be sent to the province for final approval. A large part of that application includes "robust" public consultation.

Supervised consumption sites provide a safe and clean space for people to use their own drugs under the care of nursing staff. They can also connect people to doctors, treatment and other health and social services.

Wednesday night's drop-in event was broken up into eight stations highlighting a variety of topics, including information about the local application which is being developed, as well as harm reduction, overdose prevention, treatment, support, community safety and feedback. 

"We're getting a lot of the questions we were expecting to get," said Matt Turner, harm reduction co-ordinator with the Gilbert Centre, which is one of the agencies behind the application along with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

"They are coming to learn, which I'm happy to see," Turner added. "There have been some negative comments, but for the most part it's been positive. We're getting a lot of great questions."

The public consultation period is expected to be completed by the end of March and the application could be ready by the end of May, said Turner, who called it a "rough timeline."

In December 2018, there were 38 opioid poisoning emergency department visits at hospitals in Simcoe Muskoka, which was down from November which saw 66 visits to Simcoe Muskoka hospitals. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 28 visits to Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Care for suspected drug overdose in the first 10 days of February.

The next steps include formulating a report following up on public consultations, including Wednesday night's meeting as well as addressing any concerns that are raised by members of the public. 

"This is the big one," Dr. Lisa Simon, associate medical officer of health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said of Wednesday night's forum. "There is a lot of effort going into this application."

In addition to tonight's public information session, there have also been more than 2,000 submissions through on online survey, she said. 

Where a CTS could be located, if approved, is still undecided. 

"We're still looking at locations, but we are looking at the downtown," said Turner, adding the group is also listening to community suggestions. 

One of the obstacles they're up against, Turner said, is finding a location which has the proper zoning to include both office and medical uses. 

Public health officials expect to be back in front of Barrie city council in the coming weeks.

For more information about a potential supervised consumption site, click here.