The City of Barrie has done an about-face on having an independent consultant dig deeper into safe consumption sites. There isn’t enough time or money to get the job done.
Councillor Mike McCann was one of the voices calling for an independent consultation into the effectiveness of safe consumption sites (SCS) back in June, but on Monday, he was the one who authored a motion to squash the idea altogether. “None of the consultants wanted to do the work.” McCann told Barrie 360. “They came back to our CAO, Michael Prowse and said ‘too little money, and it’s way too fast,’ that they needed a lot more time, and council wanted this back by October.”
McCann also cites an ongoing study, similar in nature to the proposed consultant’s work, being conducted by the Simcoe-Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS), as another reason to forgo a private consult. “I thought, what’s the point of duplicating the same information. Hopefully the applicants are going to have a thorough investigation back, and we’ll get the answer we’re looking for.”
When prompted on what answer he’s looking for, McCann told Barrie 360 he wants to know where the best location for a Safe Consumption Site would be, stating he believes the best location would be in industrial land.
While the private consultation phase won’t go ahead, City Council voted to have more public discussions take place over the proposed locations. The applicants behind the SCS would have to take the public temperature on all proposed sites, and not just the applicant-preferred one at 90 Mulcaster Street.
Drew Dekker with Safe Barrie, a grassroots group of locals and businesses, says he wants to make sure there is plenty of review and informed choices made before a final vote is cast. He says he hopes the ongoing review McCann cited is fair. “Asking the public to pay fifty thousand bucks, is not necessarily the right thing, so on it’s face I have to agree with that. The only concern that I have is if there’s a report being made by the applicant, is that information going to be biased or unbiased.”
The Gilbert Centre is applying to operate a supervised consumption site in Barrie, with the support of the Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe Branch and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for the application process. The Simcoe-Muskoka Opioid Strategy shares some members with the latter two, including the Health Unit’s Dr. Lisa Simon, who not only aided in the SCS application process but also serves as Co-Chair to SMOS.
Reports suggest the SCS applicants were not informed the matter was up for debate at Monday’s meeting.
Council will make a final decision on approving an SCS in Barrie once the applicants finish a site review, and following the public consultation process. There is no deadline for this review.