London Mayor Matt Brown is making a renewed push for the first supervised injection site in southwestern Ontario amid a worsening drug crisis that has seen skyrocketing rates of bloodborne HIV and hepatitis C infections among the city's needle drug users.
Brown's renewed push for the facility Tuesday comes ahead of the first of nine public consultation meetings organized by the London Middlesex Health Unit that will occur across the city through the month of November.
"It's important that people get involved," Brown told CBC News. "What we're doing today really isn't working, and we have to grow the strategies and I believe supervised injection sites are part of that."
While Brown said the supervised injection site would not solve the problem, it would help slow the spread of disease from sharing needles and reduce the number of reports of discarded needles found in public places.
"It's only harm reduction, that's all it is, but it recognizes there's a very significant problem in our community," Brown said.
"People are getting sick, people are dying, it's having a tremendous effect on our healthcare system as well. We need to do something differently."
Brown said the site needs to be coupled with support programs, such as counseling and drug rehab programs, in order to be truly effective. The site would also give outreach workers and drug users a common meeting ground.
No location has been chosen yet, according to the mayor, but the city has been in talks with Business Improvement Areas in the city's downtown and Old East Village area.
"We're going to take time to identify what would be the appropriate site," he said, noting the city has yet to decide whether the site would be mobile or fixed.
"We have a really serious issue in our community," he said. "People are dying. It's really important that we look at this."
The city will hold a total of nine public meetings as part of a necessary hurdle the city must clear before applying to Health Canada for permission to open a supervised injection site.
Nine public meetings:
- November 7th, Marconi Club, 120 Clarke Rd. 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
- November 8th, Canada Games Aquatic Centre, 1045 Wonderland Rd. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- November 13th, BMO Centre, 295 Rectory St. 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
- November 15th, Goodwill Centre, 255 Horton St. 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
- November 21st, Byron Recreation Centre, 1308 Norman Ave. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- November 27th, South London Community Centre, 585 Bradley Ave. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- November 28th, Middlesex County Building, 399 Ridout St. North. 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
- November 29th, Stronach Community Recreation Centre, 1221 Sandford St. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- November 29th, Stoney Creek Library, 920 Sunningdale Rd. East. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.