Windsor-Essex residents can weigh in on new supervised consumption site this week

As plans to develop a supervised consumption site progress in Windsor, the partners behind the site are seeking feedback from the public on two possible locations from the site.

Locations narrowed to 2 sites in downtown Windsor

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and the other partners in WECOSS are inviting feedback on two proposed locations for a supervised consumption site. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

As plans to develop a supervised consumption site progress in Windsor, the partners behind the site are seeking feedback from the public on two possible locations.

The Windsor-Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy (WECOSS) has narrowed the location down to 101 Wyandotte St. E. and 628 Goyeau St., both in downtown Windsor.

WECOSS is hosting four online town hall sessions from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6 where the public can ask questions about the locations and hear from experts including a person with lived experience, police and the local medical officer of health.  Full details are available here.

One advocate, Brandon Bailey, said that with the Downtown Mission potentially moving to McDougall Street, a second consumption site in that area would be useful to the mission clients who may need it.

Bailey, who is president of the Windsor Overdose Prevention Society, takes issue with the model being adopted in Windsor, saying some people who use drugs might not be interested in attending the consumption site.

The proposed site will be a consumption and treatment service site (CTS), meaning that in addition to being a place for people to take drugs under supervision, staff provide supports including referrals to drug treatment.

"It's a consumption site, but it's also set up around treatment, so it's like it kind of pushes people towards a direction of going to rehab, and not everybody that uses drugs wants to use rehab," he said.

He contrasted that model with that of an overdose prevention site, which is usually peer-run and low-barrier.

"People don't want go and use drugs in a place where they feel pressured to quit," he said.

Given the current situation in Windsor, Bailey said he supports the development of a site regardless of the model.

"I'd rather have a CTS than having nothing at all, because right now I'm losing friends every week," he said.

Record overdoses

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor and Essex County, has said that the pandemic has especially affected those with substance use and mental health disorders.

In 2020, Windsor-Essex saw a record 348 overdoses. Last year, 64 lives were lost to opioid overdoses, compared with 48 the previous year.

Nicole Dupuis, the CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said there's been a steady and alarming arise in opioid-related emergency room visits and deaths. 

During a virtual press conference on Friday, she said that WECOSS has issued more alerts over peaks in overdoses in the first half of 2021 than any other full year.

Dupuis said she anticipated that the final site would be selected by early fall.

With files from Tony Doucette