Injection site data months away from completion, Sudbury health unit says

A feasibility study into the need for a supervised injection site in Sudbury is underway, with results expected in April 2020, the Sudbury health unit said.

Sudbury could qualify to get federally-sanctioned supervised injection site, if conditions are met

Workers hand out kits to drug users at supervised injection sites. A feasibility study into a Sudbury site is months away from completion. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A feasibility study into the need for a supervised injection site in Sudbury is underway, with results expected in April 2020, the Sudbury health unit said.

In a presentation given Thursday to the organizations' health board, Public Health Sudbury and District said data about overdoses—  accidental or otherwise— is being collected from several different sources, including Health Sciences North, the Office of the Ontario Coroner and Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Renée St Onge, the director of knowledge and strategic services with the group, provided information into the leading causes of death in the area

On average, there are more deaths annually from overdoses than from breast cancer, the report said. Sudbury had 20 opioid-related deaths in 2018. The number one cause of death on average is Ischaemic Heart Disease, topping the list at 299.

"We see lung cancer, we see [heart disease] as being really at the top," St. Onge said. "But more and more we're starting to see data as it relates to opioid-related deaths. So that's an important consideration."

Dr. Ariella Zbar is the associate medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury and District. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

Dr. Ariella Zbar, the associate medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury and District, said the government weighs several factors in making a decision whether a community qualifies for a supervised injection site or not.

"It depends on what they see through the evidence," Zbar said. "I can't speak to what they use is as their specific decision points but they look at items such as local crime rates, the impact of the burden of opioid use and related harms in the community, as well as community support and whether or not this is feasible."

In the meantime, a pop-up supervised injection site recently set up in downtown Sudbury. The site has come under some criticism from a neighbouring community. Concerns about the site attracting more drug users had some neighbours keeping their children indoors, and complaining to the police about the increased foot traffic to the site, located in a wooded area in a residential section.

This is the scene of an unsanctioned overdose prevention site in Sudbury run by a group calling itself the Sudbury Temporary Overdose Prevention Society. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

But Zbar said minimizing risk and accidental deaths is the unit's priority, and feels the evidence will suggest that the supervised injection saves lives.

"Supervised consumption services sites that have been operating have had no fatal overdoses, Canada wide," Zbar said.

The issues surrounding the increase in use is not confined to Sudbury. Zbar said that the increasing trend is keeping pace with the rest of the country, including the demographic that appears to be most affected by the crisis.

"[Men] ages 25 through 40, those without employment and using in their own home or at least in the private dwellings of other individuals," Zbar said.

She also stressed that there wasn't one solution to combat opioid use.

"Our community needs to look at treatment," Zbar said. "We need to look at enforcement and we also need to look at prevention. To go further and further upstream before these issues start to happen, before somebody ends up in the emergency department with an overdose.

"So looking at resiliency, looking at schooling, looking at income supports, looking at wrapping around the community to make sure that we reduce the risk factors and foster the protective factors that prevent drug-related harms."



Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury.


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