Sault addictions group wants funding for overdose crisis, not downtown plaza
A group of community advocates plan to gather outside Sault Ste. Marie city hall to demand action on the continuing overdose crisis in the city.
They are specifically taking issue with the city's plans for a new downtown plaza.
While they are aware municipalities do not have jurisdiction over healthcare, members of Addictions and Mental Health Advocates said they want city council to secure more money from the province to deal with the overdose crisis -- rather than the downtown plaza.
"We have seen so much about this big plaza that our city fathers are trying to raise money for, and we think it's time that they advocate for our city's issues with addiction and mental health," said group founder Donna DeSimon. "We're on the frontlines all the time. We are seeing so many deaths."
DeSimon said many of the community members they serve are feeling left out on account of the plaza development.
However, Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano said the city continues to fight for funding to solve the overdose problem.
"One doesn't take away from the other," said Provenzano. "Us doing the plaza project does not diminish the effort we're putting into trying to get more resources in our community to deal with the mental health and addiction crisis. I understand why people might perceive it that way, it's just not actually the case."
However, Provenzano said he feels some measure of responsibility for not securing more healthcare dollars.
"I take personal responsibility for the fact that as a municipality, we have not been able to get the funds we need to provide the care our community needs," he said. "I own that. I'm partly responsible for that. And I'll continue to work until the end of my term to do that."
The provincial government has committed $3.8 billion over 10 years to address gaps in addiction services. DeSimon said action is needed now.
"We don't have 10 years," she said. "We're wiping out a generation already. The 21 to 44 ... we're wiping it out. There goes our future ... Sad to say."
DeSimon said other grassroots organizations will be joining Addictions and Mental Health Advocates at city hall Oct. 25, with the demonstration set to begin before city council meets that afternoon.