Cambridge city staff recommends a supervised consumption site — now it's time for council to decide

·3 min read

Cambridge council is revisiting planning study options on Nov. 18 for a possible drug consumption and treatment services (CTS) site.

According to a Waterloo region overdose monitoring report, Cambridge has had 277 drug overdose related calls between Nov. 16 2019 and Nov. 14 2020, the highest in the region.

A Waterloo region substance use study from 2017 said it found people in Cambridge and surrounding rural areas lack access to treatment services, according to the participating service providers and law enforcement.

Cambridge council resolved to identify a possible location for a CTS site in mid-2019.

To judge from the strong feedback to council from residents, CTS are an acutely controversial issue for residents. Most of the 250 responses council received were highly opposed.

The Region of Waterloo website states that CTS save lives by: “reducing the number of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses; reducing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs; and connecting people who use drugs with primary health care services, addictions treatment, and social services like housing and other supports.”

It adds that CTS sites create “a safer community by reducing drug use in public spaces and providing options for proper needle disposal.”

A decision on the report was deferred in the Feb. 18 council meeting after a determination was made that the vacant Ward 7 seat should first be filled before moving forward.

The planning study being brought to council outlines land use and ownership options of the proposed facility.

The study, prepared by an outside planning consultant, is being brought back to council without changes.

It makes the recommendation to follow option five, which would allow a public agency or government body to run the possible future site. Under this option council would hold power in approving the proposed location of the CTS if the application were made by the province (the likeliest scenario).

Such a facility would have to adhere to established provincial and federal guidelines on CTS and offer mental health and addiction treatment services along with providing medical supervision and harm reduction for drug consumption.

Under the other options, such as: council allowing a CTS site in Cambridge anywhere (option one) or nowhere at all (six), in core and/or buffer areas (three and four) or outside core and buffer areas (two), there would be a need for zoning bylaw changes and official plan amendments. Staff note changes to the official plan and zoning bylaw would require a $8,650 increase to the zoning bylaw update budget.

The consultant report found these options would also open the process for appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which would be allowed to make the final approval.

“With respect to need, it is our opinion that the need for the use in the city of Cambridge has been established through the work completed by Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services. The need for the use in society in general has also been confirmed by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) in their decision on the application for zoning approval to establish such a use in the city of London,” it states.

A CTS at 150 Duke St W, Kitchener began as an interim site in October 2019. According to the region’s data, as of Nov. 16, Waterloo region saw 6,700 client visits to CTS and reversed 176 overdoses.

Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times