Report to city council on drug consumption site delayed

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A report regarding funding for a proposed supervised consumption site in Sault Ste. Marie will be released ‘in the very near future,’ says CAO Malcolm White

Even if the City of Sault Ste. Marie rubber-stamped the spending of municipal dollars to build a supervised consumption and treatment centre, there is currently no way forward on the project because the province has put a pause on new applications for the sites.

A report to council regarding the proposed supervised consumption site was expected to be presented during Monday’s meeting of city council, but the item was not on the agenda.

Northern Ontario municipalities Timmins and Sudbury funded the startup and operation of safe consumption sites in their communities using municipal dollars with the hopes the provincial government would come forward and take over funding the projects. So far, that approach has not been effective and the operator of Sudbury’s site says it will close Dec. 31 if those provincial dollars are not forthcoming.

CAO Malcolm White is spearheading the effort to bring the report to Sault Ste. Marie council, and in early October he told SooToday to expect the item on the Oct. 30 agenda.

When asked why it was not on this week’s agenda as expected, White said the path to develop and implement a safe consumption and treatment facility requires partnerships with organizations in the community, as the city is not positioned to govern or operate the facility.

“We have had very good input and cooperation from community partners and we are close to being able to identify the path forward and which organizations will assist in the process,” said White. “That being said, we are not quite ready for a public report on the matter.”

White said to expect the report to come before council “in the very near future.”

Even if city staff was able to complete the report and find municipal funds to open it, the provincial government has put a hold on new applications for safe consumption sites until a review of safety concerns is complete.

Despite the delay, Mayor Matthew Shoemaker said he is encouraged by the progress.

“While the delays are longer than I’d like, I believe they will ultimately allow us to land on the right structure and framework to move forward, provided the province re-opens the intake of applications,” said Shoemaker.

In a story last month, Shoemaker told SooToday the decision by the province to hold off on new applications will likely affect the eventual Sault Ste. Marie application.

“It’s a despicable decision that will cost lives across the province,” said Shoemaker, at the time of the province’s decision.

Shoemaker has said he would like to see the eventual site located in the city’s downtown, but not on Queen Street.

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