A meeting last night on the local opioid crisis covered an array of topics, both government level and street level.
More than 100 people filed into the Barrie City Hall Rotunda on Wednesday night for a town hall meeting organized by Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MP Alex Nuttall. During an open forum, people discussed the local drug problem and ways to fix it.
The meeting also included personal stories from a pair of mothers, Melissa Hurst and Evelyn Pollock, who have lost their sons to overdoses and have been very public about their heartache and push to find a solution.
One part of that formula could be a safe consumption site (SCS) in downtown Barrie.
A local group, including the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Gilbert Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Simcoe Branch, is applying to the province for an SCS in the city. On Wednesday, space at 90 Mulcaster St., was announced as the preferred location. The group, which is operating under the umbrella of the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy, or SMOS, will seek city council's endorsement of the site on June 3.
Wednesday's meeting was not linked to the application process. Nuttall said officials were invited, but declined.
But when the topic of an SCS came up Wednesday night, Nuttall, who is not seeking re-election this fall, caused a dull roar with his continued stance against consumption sites.
"There's no such thing as a safe injection site," said the MP, who remains firm in his belief that they are "not the answer."
One woman in the front row questioned why such a site shouldn't be part of a multi-faceted solution.
"There isn't one answer," she said. "So what's wrong with one SCS?"
Pollock said: "What do we lose by trying something? What if we save one life?"
Nuttall says he believes areas that need to be improved include connecting all of the services available to deal with addiction, more education for young people on the dangers of drugs, and better co-ordination between all levels of government.
"The things you'd think are basic and would be in place simply are not," he said.
Coun. Natalie Harris, a retired paramedic who has been very open with her story, described her descent into the "horrible disease" that is addiction.
"Addicts aren't looking for drugs to get high," she said. "They're looking to get well because the symptoms of withdrawal are hell.
"Until you're walking in the other person's shoes, you have no idea."