The federal government has granted an exemption to allow the use of illegal drugs for a proposed safe consumption and treatment site (CTS) in Barrie.
The Canadian Mental Health Association – Simcoe County Branch (CMHA) confirmed the decision on Tuesday.
The location of the proposed CTS site is 11 Innisfil Street (80 Bradford Street, Unit 940).
“We are pleased that Health Canada has granted this exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to operate a consumption and treatment service site in Barrie,” said Dr. Valerie Grdisa, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association, Simcoe County Branch. “This is a significant milestone in addressing the devastating impacts of the opioid crisis affecting our community.”
Health officials say the proposed CTS site will provide a safe, hygienic location where people can use illicit substances with the supervision of trained staff, reducing health risks such as overdose and infections.
“It will also connect people who use drugs to other health and social services that they may want but have difficulty accessing, including mental health and addictions treatment, primary care, and housing,” CMHA said in a news release.
Health officials are still waiting for approval from the Ontario Ministry of Health on an application submitted to the province in October 2021, including confirmation of funding.
“There continues to be an urgent need to mitigate the harms from the unregulated drug supply that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic (March 2020- March 2022) there have been 323 opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka. This is more than 75 per cent higher than the 182 opioid-related deaths in the 25 months prior to the start of the pandemic (February 2018 – February 2020). These statistics reflect the loss of valued community members who may have benefited from the compassionate, evidence-based health and social support of a CTS in their community,” according to CMHA.
Grdisa told Barrie 360 that even if the province were to give immediate approval, the CTS site would not be ready to open in 2022.
Barrie city council approved the use of the site at 11 Innisfil Street in June 2021.