Province will approve future supervised consumption sites based on need

The provincial government says 21 consumption and treatment service sites promised Monday will go where there is the greatest need, but existing sites need to seek re-approval.

Ministry of Health statement gives no guarantee existing sites will be re-approved

Guelph's overdose prevention site at the Guelph Community Health Centre is one existing site that will have to re-apply under the new model. (Guelph Community Health Centre/ Facebook)

The provincial government says 21 consumption and treatment service sites promised Monday will go where there is the greatest need. 

In an email statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care said the sites would be approved "for communities in the province with the greatest need," but didn't expand on what that need would look like or how it would be determined.

Minister of Health Christine Elliot announced Monday that the consumption and treatment service sites would be replacing the existing overdose prevention, supervised injection and supervised consumption sites set up under the previous Liberal government. 

Existing sites will have to re-apply under the new model if they wish to continue operating, and while Elliot said most meet the criteria, the Ministry of Health statement made no guarantees that existing sites would be approved. 

Guelph has 'great need'

Despite the lack of guarantees, Raechelle Devereaux, executive director of the Guelph Community Health Centre, is confident the overdose prevention site in Guelph will make the cut. 

"Guelph is a community with great need," she told CBC News, pointing out that the rate of opioid-related emergency department visits in the City of Guelph was 37 per cent higher than the provincial average in 2017.

"So, it's scary, it's concerning, and without a doubt our community will meet the province's threshold of demonstrated need for services to continue."

Few options for new sites

If all currently-existing sites are approved, it could leave communities that have no site — communities such as Waterloo region — without options. 

That's because there are already 18 or 19 sites operating in the province and the government has given three additional sites permission to start operations while they apply under the new model. That adds up to all 21 sites the province says it will approve, plus a possible 22nd.

Until they know more about the application process, outgoing Regional Chair Ken Seiling said council wouldn't apply for a site under the new model.

"There are more details we need to get from the province," he told CBC News. "We don't know what the process is or whether we're competing with other municipalities."

"Until we know what their plans are and how they plan to do it, we need to get that information and then we can begin the process."

Waterloo region was engaged in selecting possible locations for two supervised consumption sites when the province announced in June its intention to review the model and put the approval of all sites on hold

In August, regional council decided to halt the location selection process until the provincial review was complete