Windsor-Essex health unit wants to 'take the lead' on bringing supervised injection site to city

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit wants to "take the lead" on submitting an application to bring a supervised injection site to Windsor.

Earlier this month, the province released a list of 15 approved supervised injection sites — which did not include a site in Windsor.

During a board meeting Friday, the health unit proposed to facilitate the completion of an application to the provincial government for "consumption and treatment services" in Windsor-Essex.

While the province has given the go-ahead for some supervised injection sites to operate, others have also experienced funding cuts. Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the health unit's medical officer of health, said the province is sending a clear message.

"Clearly, the intention from the government is to make sure that we have a comprehensive plan, and we have all the answers before we can get consumption and treatment services up and running."

Ahmed added "community consultation" and "community buy-in" needs to be addressed before an application can be submitted to the province.

"One of the most important parts that we have to answer is the location. The application asks for a specific location."

"The application also asks for a treatment pathway. So this government clearly wants to make sure that it is not just a site where people are using any kind of drugs, but also a site where they can start to get connected with community health agencies," said Ahmed.

Chris Ensing/CBC

During Friday's meeting, downtown city councillor and board member Rino Bortlolin expressed his desire to see the process of bringing a supervised injection site to Windsor move ahead with a greater "sense of urgency."

"I know we're waiting on the date of the public consultation, but the process itself to once we start the application will take months. Once we submit, it will probably sit in limbo for months and months," said Bortolin.

"That'll be years from the point we started this process to when we're actually going to see an open site. So can there be something that's pushed even faster to actually get this thing going quicker?"

WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette acknowledged that the process of applying for a supervised injection site in Windsor is "probably not fast enough," but added the board will move forward as quickly as it can.

"I do sit on a teleconference every week for those that have sites in Ontario, and [the application] is very comprehensive ... The community has to be ready for this," she said.

"Having looked at the application, it's a pretty in-depth application. It requires a lot of pathways that are now being developed by our community partners."

She added choosing a location for the site will require much consultation with the community.

Ahmed echoed those sentiments, saying "there's a lot of work that needs to happen before we get to the stage of submitting an application for funding."