Committee votes to move ahead with safe consumption site in Kitchener
Published Tuesday, April 9, 2019 5:31PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, April 11, 2019 11:05AM EDT
It’s not a done deal yet, but a proposed safe consumption site in Kitchener has taken a big step towards being approved.
The region’s community services committee voted to move ahead with the proposed site at 150 Duke Street West on Tuesday after a day of emotional delegates.
Current and former users, their families and many others spoke to offer reasons both for and against the site.
“My life has as much value when I’m injecting as it does when I’m not,” said Natasha Campbell, a delegate and Kitchener resident.
She says the site checks the appropriate boxes, especially when it comes to location, anonymity and accessibility of other services.
In a staff report released on Friday, the region gave the site 19 out of a possible 25 points, acknowledging drawbacks such as its proximity to St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centre and the nearby police station.
Another concern, says Public Health’s Grace Birmingham, is the possibility of increased crime in the area.
“We would need to develop some mitigation strategies with respect to that,” she says.
Still, Public Health recommended that the site be approved: it scored the highest out of the four options proposed in Kitchener and has been the location that has garnered the most support in public consultations.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic was pushing for another location at next to the paramedic building on Victoria Street North, but the consensus of the committee was that a safe consumption was needed right away.
He also put forward an amendment that would see a temporary site considered in the meantime. The committee agreed unanimously.
Next, the recommendation will need to be brought before regional and Kitchener’s city councils. The former will consider the site next week.
As for a site in Cambridge, the region's staff report indicates that staff will continue to look for an acceptable site in the meantime.
"There remains a significant and urgent need for a Consumption and Treatment Services site in South Cambridge as part of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy and as identified by the feasibility study and recent data," the report says.
The proposed site on Main Street in Cambridge was met with a good deal of resistance, prompting the region to continue to seek a viable option in the city.
The latest opioid overdose numbers indicate that Waterloo Region saw three suspected overdose deaths in just the first three months of the year.
With reporting from Natalie van Rooy and Ryan Flanagan.