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Timmins supervised drug consumption site to be taken over by CMHA

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Funding to keep the supervised drug consumption site open in Timmins has been found and it will be taken over by Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Cochrane-Timiskaming.

The uncertainty about the ability to keep the Safe Health Site Timmins (SHST) open has been eliminated with a new partnership between the Timmins and District Hospital (TADH) and CMHA.

"The SHST will begin the transition from the Urgent Public Health Needs Site (UPHNS) exemption, operated by TADH to the Consumption Treatment Services (CTS) exemption, operated by CMHA-CT," the two groups said in a joint news release.

"This extension is made possible through new and existing funding sources that support those in our community living with substance use disorders."

It was also announced that CMHA-CT will temporarily subsidize the operating costs for the site after funding was found.

The CMHA received federal approval for a permanent consumption treatment services site in September 2023 but is still waiting for provincial approval.

"In 2020, a funding proposal was submitted to Ontario Health for the development of the Timmins Wellness Centre, a comprehensive treatment facility," the hospital said.

"The Timmins and District Hospital resubmitted a funding proposal for the development of the Timmins Wellness Centre in December 2023 and are awaiting a response from the province."

The site will change hands in the coming months.

"Through this partnership, important services like treatment, case management and referrals, on-site counselling, harm reduction, education and prevention for infectious diseases (like HIV/Hep C) and wound care remain readily accessible for those who need them," the news release said.

"The SHST has demonstrated its effectiveness as an evidence-based solution to connect individuals with treatment and care, save lives and safeguard emergency and health service capacity."

There has been a 20 per cent reduction in opioid-related ambulance calls, emergency room visits and overdose deaths since the site opened, the hospital said.

More than 1,500 people have accessed the supervised drug consumption site between July 2022 and December 2023.

Timmins has a population of under 42,000 people.

Timmins had one of the highest rates of opioid-related deaths in Ontario in 2020 at 75.3 per 100,000.

That number rose to 80.2 per 100,000 in 2021.

Within the five months of operation its first year, the rate dropped to 53.3.

"Acting as a vital doorway to our care system, 97 per cent of clients accessing SHST accessed the harm reduction clinic to connect with treatment services and care. The site has also intervened in 361 overdoses, with only three per cent requiring EMS and no fatalities," the hospital said.

"To date, the SHST has facilitated over 40 direct admissions to withdrawal management services and continues to facilitate the provision of treatment directly onsite." 

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