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Funding set to expire for Sudbury’s safe consumption site

Sudbury-based non-profit Réseau Access Network says funding is set to expire for the city’s supervised consumption site.

Staff on-site prevent overdoses, offer clean supplies and drug testing. The goal is to ensure those who attend feel safe and welcome and can access help.

"The people that have come to the site have really welcomed the services offered here and they’ve been welcomed into a space that offers supportive services, wraparound services and care," Heidi Eisenhauer, executive director.

The site has been in operation for a year, celebrating its one-year anniversary Thursday. In that time, Eisenhauer said the site has saved numerous lives.

"We've had over 200 visits this past month and there's been over 1,000 visits since we opened," she said.

"That’s amazing."

The site is located near the Beer Store on Lorne Street. Eisenhauer said she recognizes the location isn't ideal.

"We are in a location not easy to get to, but we know with provincial funding, we will be able to be in a location that will have access to where the people are at," she said.

Réseau put in a request to the province for funding in August 2021 and they have yet to hear back. In the meantime, Greater Sudbury stepped up to offer financial assistance until Dec. 31.

Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre said the support is meant to be temporary.

"A safe consumption site should be funded by the province, not a municipality,” Lefebvre said.

Sudbury-based non-profit Réseau Access Network says funding is set to expire for the city’s supervised consumption site. (Amanda Hicks/CTV News)

“That is a public health matter. That is a health care matter. The municipality stepped in, but that’s not sustainable.”

Lefebvre said he and his staff are hoping for a positive outcome.

"Our team is engaging and advocating," he said.

"The decision on what next will be coming in the budget deliberations in December."

In an email to CTV News, the Ontario Ministry of Health said it received Réseau's application, but gave no indication when the group would hear back.

"All applications are subject to a rigorous screening process and timelines for the application screening process vary," the statement said.

Amber Fritz, supervisor of the site, said now is not time for services like this to run out.

"Supervised consumption sites save lives. This is not up for debate, this is not my opinion. This is evidence-based rooted in fact," Fritz said.

"We need this service. Every community needs this service."

Fritz said the drug supply has become increasingly toxic, stating that there have been two instances of 'liquid Xanax' found through testing this week.

Fritz said the drug, which has the clinical name of Flubromazolam, is no longer prescribed in Canada or in parts of Europe.

"It is extremely potent. It can cause amnesia, it can cause blackouts. This is what some of the batches of fentanyl are being adulterated with," she said.

"Now that people were aware this was in their substances, they could take the proper precautions."

Fritz said the thought of the services running out is terrifying.

"The drug supply is getting increasingly toxic, increasingly deadly, increasingly volatile, this is not the time to be removing a lifesaving service from a community that is disproportionately affected by the ongoing drug poisoning crisis," she said.

Réseau said it was told it would likely hear something this week. In the meantime, it is planning on launching a campaign aimed at driving awareness of its services, and how vital they are. Top Stories

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