Timmins city council approves permanent spot for supervised consumption site

Timmins city council approved a permanent location for the northern Ontario city’s supervised consumption site.

The site opened in 2022 and provides a space where use drugs under the supervision of trained staff

A beige building on a downtown street with a green mural on the side.
Timmins city council approved a permanent location for the city's supervised consumption site in the downtown core. (Jimmy Chabot/Radio-Canada)

Timmins city council has approved a permanent location for the northern Ontario city's supervised consumption site.

This means the city can apply for federal approval, and eventually get provincial funding to run it.

Until now, the city has covered all operational costs, which run about $85,000 per month. 

Coun. Cory Robin said it's important the city continue to fund the site until it can secure some funds from the province. 

A man sitting in municipal council chambers.
Timmins Coun. Cory Robin says it’s important the city continue to fund its safe consumption site until it can secure some funds from the province. (Jimmy Chabot/Radio-Canada)

"It is a painful situation and we need to measure it and respect it as such," Robin said at Tuesday's council meeting. 

"To me this is a vote that says, you know, I'm going to do what it takes, come what may, to reduce the death in our community."

The supervised consumption site opened in July 2022 to provide a space where people can consume their own pre-obtained drugs under the eye of trained staff who can respond if a medical emergency, such as an overdose, occurs.

Staff and the site can also refer people to addiction and counselling services. 

In December 2022 the safe injection site had 1,402 visits for safe consumption services and counted 12 overdoses in that time.

A report for December also said around 66 per cent of drug users at the Timmins site used fentanyl, and nearly 25 per cent used crystal meth. 

Coun. John Curley said he was concerned the city has not yet heard from the federal government about approval for the site. Until it gets that approval, the city won't be reimbursed for any of the money it has spent on the site so far.

"It's been a while now and we're not hearing anything back from the federal government, at least I haven't heard anything," Curley said during the council meeting on Tuesday.

"Where is the federal government?"

Charlie Angus stands at a microphone, holding his open hands to his side, wearing a three-piece suit.
Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says the federal government needs to step up to support a supervised consumption site in Timmins. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus said he wants to see a more "hands-on approach" from the federal government regarding the opioid crisis in cities like Timmins.

"The feds have made a lot of promises, but we need that funding right there that people can access and community groups can get to work in keeping people alive and keeping our streets safe," Angus said.

Jason Sereda, a non-profit consultant in Timmins, said he welcomed city council's decision to keep funding the site until the end of year. 

"By council supporting this while we secure funding from provincial and federal levels, it really shows that people who use drugs matter in our community and that they're part of the community," he said.

Sereda said the next big step for the city to help drug users would be to provide a safe drug supply, as some groups in Vancouver have done.

With files from Warren Schlote