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Brant County Health Unit pushes for safe consumption site as overdoses rise

An overdose alert was issued in Brant County at the same time the public health unit in the area is pushing for a safe consumption site.

Last Tuesday, the Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) said Brantford Police Service has responded to nine suspected opioid-related overdose fatalities this year.

The health unit said most of these fatalities occurred in public settings.

Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses per 100,000 people have outpaced the Ontario rate over the last six years.

“It has consistently been above the provincial average for some time, and our emergency department overdose rate is more than two times the provincial average,” said Dr. Rebecca Comley, the acting medical officer of health.

According to data from the health unit, the rate of opioid-related overdoses in Brant County per 100,000 people was 185.9 in 2022, down slightly from the 204 recorded in 2021.

The Brant County Health Unit and their board of health published a letter one week before the overdose alert, supporting the creation of a safe consumption and treatment site.

“We are certainly trying to get everyone on board, with evidence. There was a myth that they would increase drugs use, and the evidence certainly suggests that that is not the case,” said Comley.

Residents who spoke to CTV News on Tuesday were vocal about the topic of a possible safe consumption and treatment site.

“Having safe sites and accessibility to proper things and clean things would help the issue,” said one resident.

Though some residents said they would rather see the money spent on drug rehabilitation.

Comley said drug rehabilitation would be a part of a possible consumption and treatment site.

“One of the key reasons we are supportive of this initiative is that they help to provide a lot of support and access to services to people who use drugs. That includes access to treatment services but also primary care services as well as addiction and mental health support. Not only that, they can also help reduce the burden on some of the other resources such as emergency services that are particularly strained at this time,” Comley said.

Branford city councillors are divided.

“I don’t agree with it. I don’t think that is the solution. I think a better solution is proper treatment in a residential setting,” said Coun. Greg Martin.

Others said it is worth exploring the option of having a safe consumption site.

“I supported it when it came to the board of health, which I sit on, and I think it's something we should at least explore,” said Counc. John Sless.

Brantford’s mayor said in a statement that he’s hoping to open the conversation up to the community and listen to all perspectives.

“Consumption Treatment Sites (CTS) are controversial, as there are strong arguments on both sides of the debate,” Mayor Kevin Davis said in part.

Davis said it would be “premature” for him to state a firm position on the subject without hearing more from the community “including public health, treatment services, the business community and the public at large.”

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