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Here's what Kitchener's consumption treatment site looks like

The Region of Waterloo is preparing to open its interim consumption and treatment site this month and harm reduction workers say the facility in downtown Kitchener is already set up for its first visitors.

The facility at 150 Duke St. in Kitchener is set up for its first visitors on Oct. 15

There are two booths in the consumption room, where people can inject drugs with the supervision of a nurse. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

An interim consumption and treatment site in downtown Kitchener is ready for its first visitors later this month. 

"We're ready," said Violet Umanetz, director of harm reduction and overdose prevention services with Sanguen Health Centre.

The site at 150 Duke St. is set to open on Oct. 15. The permanent site at the same location is expected to open in Feb. 2020, although the provincial government is still reviewing the application, meaning funding from the province hasn't come through yet.

There will be at least five workers at the interim site, including a social support worker, security and a nurse who will oversee a consumption room where people can inject their drugs.

The nurse is available to help people who are having trouble injecting, and is also there to respond to overdoses.

So far in 2019, there have been 48 suspected opioid overdose deaths in the Waterloo Region, according to the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services.

There were 61 deaths because of opioid overdoses in 2018. The region has consistently ranked above the provincial average for overdose deaths and currently has the eighth highest rate of 36 regions in the province. 

The site also includes a room where people can sit after consuming drugs.

"They will be further monitored for overdose at that point by a social support worker who will also talk to them about referrals ...and really have some conversations about what's next," said Umanetz.

While in the post-consumption room, people are also offered harm reduction supplies and naloxone kits, she said.

No buffer zones

Some consumption sites across Canada have a buffer zone around them, where police are more relaxed about drug infractions.

Waterloo Regional Police Service Insp. Mark Crowell said police decided against the idea in Kitchener, after researching what other cities have done. 

Waterloo Regional Police Service Insp. Mark Crowell says police will take a balanced approach around the new consumption site. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

"We will ensure that we allow people who are accessing this site to do so unencumbered. But there will be no free zone and buffer zone where criminal activity or other social disorder or public nuisance activity will be permitted," said Crowell.

The Region of Waterloo and Sanguen Health Centre say the number of people using the site will likely be low at first, but they expect the response will grow as the community becomes familiar with the services.

A permanent site would include more services, including  trauma counselling and matching people with housing and income support.

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