City, County, police, health leaders urge for speedy approval of safe consumption site application

11 Innisfil Street has been endorsed as the location for the SCS

Five months after Barrie City Council endorsed a safe consumption site at 11 Innisfil Street, the approval remains hung up in the political process.

On Tuesday, the Barrie Health Accord’s senior leadership issued an urgent letter to all levels of government urging speedy approval of the safe consumption site (SCS) application. The letter was signed by Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, Simcoe County Warden George Cornell, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre President and CEO Janice Skot, Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood, and Simcoe Muskoka Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner.

A media release issued by the City of Barrie on Tuesday afternoon said as the opioid crisis escalates, the signatories of the accord are aware that Barrie has been disproportionally impacted by a significant rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths.

“The numbers paint a grim picture especially within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic – there were 58 opioid deaths in Barrie in 2020, more than double the 26 from 2019, and 85% higher than the average from 2017-2019,” according to the release. “The crude opioid mortality rate for Barrie in 2020 was 38 deaths per 100,000 population, which was the third-highest among all municipalities in Ontario with populations over 100,000 residents.”

“As leaders in our community, we are joining forces to call on the Province of Ontario and Government of Canada to immediately approve the SCS/CTS application for Barrie,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “This facility is needed immediately to prevent deaths due to poisoned drugs and help get people into treatment.”

On June 1, Barrie City Council voted 8-2 to endorse 11 Innisfil Street as the site for a SCS.

The dissenting votes came from Councillors Gary Harvey and Mike McCann.

At that meeting, many people who made deputations said they were led to believe the site was going to be at 80 Bradford Street

In early May, the applicants said the preferred location for the SCS was 19 Innisfil Street, after suggesting in March that 80 Bradford Street was one of four possible sites, then later clarified that the correct address was 11 Innisfil Street, which is at the back of the Bradford Street complex.

“It really makes me wonder if the applicants ever visited the place. You only have to walk to the front door and see the placard inches away from the door that says 11 Innisfil Street. This is the door they intend on using as the entrance. So how this address got misconstrued is unfathomable,” said Harvey, at the meeting where council endorsed the location.

The Canadian Mental Health Association – Simcoe County Branch – and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit are the applicants.

What is needed to move ahead with the SCS is for the federal government to grant an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and to get funding approval from the province.