Pubdate: Tue, 23 Jan 2018
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The London Free Press
Author: Megan Stacey
Page: A3


Health emergencies don't wait for plans and procedures.

As drug overdose deaths continue to plague London - with five lives
claimed by suspected overdoses in the first three weeks of 2018 alone
- - city staff and politicians hustled to keep up with zoning rules for
supervised consumption facilities.

Residents and experts agree that London needs the sites - the first of
which, a temporary overdose-prevention site, was announced Friday -
where drug users have a safe place to inject and easy access to an
overdose antidote and community supports.

The question is where to put them for the long term.

"We have been moving this item forward more quickly than the city
process has been able to move, for understandable reasons on both
sides," medical officer of health Chris Mackie told council's planning
committee Monday night.

"We are dealing with a crisis."

Mackie and city planning boss John Fleming offered politicians a long
list of suggestions for choosing a location for the longer-term sites.

It should be in an area where drug use is prevalent so those who need
the facility can easily access it, but also in a discreet location
that will offer privacy and reduce stigma.

Supervised sites should be "well serviced" by transit routes, but also
distanced from busy public spaces, parks, schools and recreation centres.

The temporary downtown site at 186 King St., though not perfect,
checks most of those boxes. That site has provincial approval and
funding to operate for six months. It's expected to open Feb. 12.

London is still awaiting federal approval for a more permanent
supervised consumption site, or sites. Politicians opted to amend the
council policy proposed by staff, extending the timeline for the
temporary site for up to two years.

Coun. Tanya Park suggested that would give staff enough time to walk
through the planning process for the longer-term sites, noting, "it's
a proud moment for London to even be having this conversation."

Coun. Jesse Helmer urged his colleagues to think less about the
complaints surrounding the sites from neighbouring businesses or
residents, and more about the Londoners stuck in the cycle of
addiction who may need to use the site.

"Love . . . is very important in terms of people's abilities to have
hope for the future. A lot of what is driving addictions is pain and
hopelessness," he said.

Mackie also updated politicians on parallel efforts by the
Middlesex-London Health Unit to tackle the city's drug issues, like
the downtown needle cleanup by more than 100 volunteers. The hope is
to expand that effort to the SoHo area soon.

Despite some concerns, only one per cent of Londoners surveyed believe
supervised sites will offer no benefits.
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MAP posted-by: Matt