Kitchener council approves Duke St. safe consumption centre
Kitchener councillors have approved the region’s first consumption and treatment site Monday evening. Even with approval, though, questions remain about the likelihood of a facility.
A special council meeting was called by Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic so the site can get the go-ahead in Kitchener and move on to the regional level, one of a number of steps that are now on a tight timeline due to a looming provincial funding application deadline.
Vrbanovic is pushing ahead with the proposed site on Duke Street West along with 10 councillors, despite initially wanting to see the site at a location on Victoria Street.
“This is a significant public health crisis in our community,” Vrbanovic says. “We’re seeing many people die from overdoses.”
So far this year, 20 people have died from opioid overdoses in Waterloo Region, trending upwards from 2018.
In March, the province approved 15 safe consumption sites, and it’s believed six more facilities will get provincial money.
“Ontario will continue to accept Consumption and Treatment Services applications from interested organizations,” says David Jensen, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.
Still, it’s not clear what other cities may be after a piece of the shrinking pie.
“It’s not been a survey we’ve done,” says Regional Chair Karen Redman. “Clearly they defunded some of the previous ones and decided they were going to stick with the 21 sites.”
To apply, a consumption and treatment site needs other social services. That’s what makes the Duke site so appealing, but it also has to be staffed with community partners.
Redman says they’re partnering with the House of Friendship, Sanguen Health Centre, the Kitchener Downtown Health Clinic and more.
The deadline to apply for provincial funding is on May 1.
With the okay from Kitchener council, the site still needs regional council approval. That could happen as soon as Wednesday.