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Safe Health Site Timmins supporters hold rally, demand action

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Supporters of the Safe Health Site Timmins (SHST) rallied peacefully in front of Timmins MPP George Pirie’s office on Friday. The concerned residents are calling on the province to ensure the supervised consumption site receives the necessary funding to stay open.

Supporters of the Safe Health Site Timmins rallied peacefully in front of Timmins MPP George Pirie’s office on March 8, 2024. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News Northern Ontario)Demonstrators laid down covering themselves in white sheets to symbolize the bodies of those who will be lost if SHST is closed.

The supervised consumption building on Cedar Street South is scheduled to close at the end of the month.

Organizers told CTV News that the small but peaceful demonstration in front of MPP Pirie’s office is a call for help and the visuals are being used to make a statement about the future fate of the city without the consumption site’s supports in place.

 “There'll be a lot of death in our community,” said Jason Sereda, a concerned citizen and advocate for the local vulnerable population.

“That's what will happen.”

Demonstrators said the ‘clock is ticking’ towards the site’s closure – but Sereda and the others say there is still time to act.

“It's definitely not too late. I mean, the government spends funding on medical issues all of the time,” said Christianne Blain, another concerned citizen at the demonstration.

“So a collaboration with the city as well as our provincial government and federal government can definitely be done to keep the site in operation.”

Organizers of the rally said they are calling on the provincial government for immediate emergency funding immediately as they fear for worst if SHST closes.

“It's their responsibility to fund the programs,” said Sereda.

“It's their … it's their you know, we're here in Timmins where we have our MPP who ran on the idea that we needed this this in our community.”

Blain told CTV News that consumption treatment sites are medical sites and provide medical interventions to help folks struggling with dependency or other substance use disorders

“It would be wonderful to see the support of the community come together and rally to save people's lives,” she said.

“Save Health Site Timmins does not enable drug use. It enables breathing.”

Officials with the consumption site said that there have been 131 overdoses that have been reversed with naloxone at SHST from July 2022 to December that could have resulted in fatalities – adding that in that time the site has made 56 referrals to community-based addiction services and been responsible for 40 direct admissions to the local hospital’s withdrawal management program.

MPP Pirie was not available to speak with organizers when they dropped off their petitions Friday and his office told CTV News he was not available for comment.

Sereda said that applications for funding have been sitting with the provincial government for two years.

“We know that the Sudbury site is also closing down at the end of the month. The Windsor site has been closed for a little over a month, maybe a month-and-a-half,” he said.

“We're seeing across the province that sites like this and community supports like the safe house, like Timmins, aren't able to do the good work that they do because they don't have sustained sustainable funding.”

The Ministry of Health told CTV News that SHST is not a provincially run site at this time – it has been funded by the city and the Timmins and District Hospital.

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