The Middlesex-London Health Unit wants to know what Londoners think about supervised consumption sites.
The health unit is holding nine public meetings throughout the month of November to find out. It has also launched an online survey. It's not just for curiosity's sake—cities have to hold these consultations in order to get an exemption from Canada's federal drug laws.
In London, the four proposed host areas for the supervised injection sites are:
- Old East Village
- Downtown core
Shaya Dhinsa, a manager with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said that they don't have a more specific location in mind just yet.
She did note that the health unit plans to submit its application to Health Canada by early next year, which requires that they have a site chosen.
Beyond the location itself, the health unit is asking for feedback on the perceived pros and cons of safe consumption sites, and what other information Londoners feel they need.
Here's what three attendees of the first public meeting had to say.
Leticia Mizon describes herself as "pro-harm reduction." She attended the first public consultation meeting to help get the word out about supervised consumption sites, and hear concerns from her fellow Londoners.
Mizon said she does wonder about the investment that London is making into related social services, particularly affordable housing.
"If we're going to have these supervised access sites, [are we] going to be referring people to outside resources? That's what I want to know," said Mizon.
"How are we going to fast track and make our housing waiting lists shorter?"
Richard O'Connell is a former drug user. He said he found his way out of addiction by going through a drug treatment program with a similar "harm reduction" philosophy.
"I see the similarities here. Bringing [the drug users] in. And building a relationship, building a bridge, being friendly with them and then offering alternatives without preaching to them. Because I don't think that that really works," said O'Connell.
O'Connell said he doesn't have any specific questions for the health unit, but does have one for the public: Why not give supervised consumption sites a try?
"Because we see this every day, what's happening in our own communities... And you know, people are actually dying, they're getting infectious diseases for no other reason except perhaps society's own ignorance," he said.
Gabie Minall recently graduated from a nursing program, and has seen first-hand what happens when drugs aren't injected safely.
"Infection is the number one. It just can escalate and the users might not trust healthcare providers so they don't want to come to the hospital," she said.
"You can see bone sometimes. You have to clean it out, and the tissue surrounding the wound can be narcotic so it can be dying off, and it smells and it's painful."
Minall said she hopes the supervised consumption sites will at least cut down on the amount of infections that hospitals see, by ensuring that drug users have safe instruments.
Minall said she'd like to see the sites located in the downtown core, where drug users can easily go by transit.
The remaining public meetings are as follows:
- 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.