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Stats back need for supervised consumption site

By Randy Thoms Apr 25, 2023 | 6:10 AM

Marco Verch Professional Photographer / CC

A Northwestern Health Unit report is backing the need for a supervised consumption site in Fort Frances.

Supervised consumption sites are intended to provide a safe area for people to use their own drugs.

There is only one in northwestern Ontario located in Thunder Bay.

The health unit would like others in Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, as well as in Fort Frances.

Speaking to Fort Frances town council Monday night, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young Hoon says the statistics show the need in Fort Frances.

“The Fort Frances area local health hub has had the highest rates of emergency room visits for opioid overdose within the catchment area between 2017 and 2021,” says Dr. Young Hoon. “We saw 47 emergency room visits in 2021, which is a 370% increase since 2017.”

Dr. Young Hoon adds 34% of all overdose deaths within the health unit’s catchment area in 2021 were in the Fort Frances area.

Mayor Andrew Hallikas calls the numbers shocking and a cry for action.

“We’re definitely in the midst of a crisis here,” says Hallikas. “I like the idea that we need to educate the general public more on perhaps the research that’s been done on supervised consumption services and the positive benefits of supervised consumption services. I think there’s definitely a need in Fort Frances based on the Fort Frances statistics for something like that here.”

One of the hurdles is funding.

“There is no existing funding for this, so it would be necessary to apply for funding at this point,” says Dr. Young Hoon. “Most sites are funded in Ontario, funded from the provincial government.”

Dr. Young Hoon does see a role for the municipality by providing support.

There is also a need for someone to act as the lead.

Dr. Young Hoon says part of their work is to continue speaking with various agencies to identify a lead or co-lead for such services and help develop the plan for a site.

“We also continue to provide information to partners and to stakeholders on the problem, which is the opioid overdose problem. We continue to report on those statistics every quarter, and then also other related health problems such as HIV and other blood-borne illnesses. And then we will also continue to communicate to the broader public and stakeholders on the evidence-based around consumption services, supervised consumption services.”



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