Kitchener councillors voted unanimously Monday to work closely with regional government and establish a supervised injection site at a fixed location somewhere in the downtown.
In doing so, councillors recommended the Region — responsible for local health and social services — take a leadership role, operate the facility and staff the site where wrap-around social services would be provided for some of the estimated 4,000 people who inject drugs in the Region.
On Tuesday, regional councillors agreed to push ahead with plans for three SIS sites in Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo. They agreed to consider an SIS report by next month and deferred a motion from Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig to exclude SIS locations in Galt, Preston and Hespeler.
Part of Kitchener council’s recommendation urged the Region to work with the city and neighbourhood groups before an SIS site is selected and review the facility after two years. Kitchener also asked the Region to conduct a public education program about SIS services and set up similar drug-injection services in Waterloo and Cambridge.
Considering the fact that 109 people died in Waterloo Region in 2016 and 2017 due to suspected opioid overdoses, I support what would be an expensive SIS facility even though there’s a chance it might be located in my downtown Ward 9 in order to be easily accessible to Kitchener addicts.
In fact, residents living in neighbourhoods in the two wards that make up the inner city of Kitchener would be wise to get engaged and participate in a the ongoing, controversial SIS debate that will resurface at next Monday’s April 16 evening council session.
In last night’s debate I argued that without immediate action on a worsening opioid crisis Kitchener councillors and residents could easily be among those who experience overdose deaths of teenage children, relatives or friends.
I said I wanted to be part of a solution where there has been a 303-per-cent increase in the number of opioid-related overdose calls to local paramedic services between 2015-2017 along with a 70-per-cent hike in opioid-related emergency visits to hospitals.
I noted that Cambridge also has a high number of opioid emergency calls and said I don’t want Kitchener to mimic our neighbouring city’s response to the crisis — a reaction that involves closing council eyes tight and hoping the deadly epidemic will go away.
I reminded SIS opponents the ongoing problem of discarded needles and drug-related litter could be improved by an SIS site and, with or without drug-treatment centres, we already have deeply troubled people shooting up alone and risking death in our public washrooms, community centres and parks.