Sudbury’s supervised consumption site says it will close on Dec. 31 if it doesn’t receive any provincial funding.
In an update posted to social media, Reseau Access Network, the harm reduction agency that operates the facility, said it has been waiting for funding from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions for 25 months.
The consumption site, called The Spot, has been operating since September 2022 and is currently funded by the City of Greater Sudbury, but that funding ends on Dec. 31.
“On December 31st, 2023, a life-saving service, the only one of its kind in the region, will close its doors due to a lack of funding,” states the update on social media. “December 31st is 100 days from today’s date. In 100 days, our community will lose a safe space for people to use drugs under the supervision of trained staff amidst an unprecedented drug poisoning crisis that is claiming the lives of Northern Ontarians at a disproportionate rate.
“In 100 days, a point of access to substance use treatment, housing support and primary care will no longer be available to some of the most systemically marginalized and oppressed members of our community.”
Reseau Access Network said the “drug poisoning crisis” is not slowing down. “Unregulated drugs are becoming increasingly toxic and volatile,” the agency stated on social media. “This is not the time to remove a life-saving service, a frontline defence, from the war on people who use drugs.
“We as a community need to raise a unified voice to tell those in power that the lives of our brothers, sisters, parents and friends matter. Supervised consumption sites save lives, connect people to care, and foster community and connection. The Spot is no exception.”
The agency will start a countdown to the facility’s closure on its website reseauaccessnetwork.com.
Greater Sudbury city councillors agreed to fund the site for a year at a cost about of $1 million in hopes the provincial government would eventually agree to pay for the service.
However, funding The Stop is not part of the city’s 2024 budget and councillors are already looking at a six per cent tax hike. They want to limit the tax increase to 4.7 per cent and would have to cut more than $10 million to reach that goal.
A budget report this week noted that “council approved tentative funding in the amount of $1.1 million in the form of a grant to (Public Health Sudbury and Districts) to operate a supervised consumption site.
“While efforts to engage the provincial government remain ongoing, no provincial funding has yet been committed. The 2024 and 2025 operating budgets do not include continued funding for this service unless otherwise directed by council.”
Ed Archer, the City of Greater Sudbury’s CAO, reiterated the city’s efforts to engage the provincial government on the issue. He said while city staff is “aware of the importance of the service,” he noted the consumption site is not a municipal responsibility and its costs have not been included in next year’s plan.
“This is a public health service and from the perspective of the feedback we’ve heard from your discussions so far, we believe there is a role for the provincial government to play in funding that service,” he said, adding staff would require “further direction” from council in order to incorporate the costs into the 2024-25 budget.
When contacted by The Star in the past on this issue, the provincial government has said little and other than to acknowledge the city has requested funding.
– with files from Mary Katherine Keown
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star