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Sudbury launches supervised consumption site

In North Bay, a local task force of community partners has been assessing the feasibility of establishing a safe consumption site that would provide a supervised space for illicit drug users

GREATER SUDBURY, Ont. — It is not yet at full capacity but a long-awaited supervised consumption site in Sudbury is preparing to open its doors. Once all the provincial funding comes in, the site will be open for service between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

The agency expects to have the facility fully operational by mid to late August. 

Around 50 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 21 at 24 Energy Court. The event was hosted by Réseau ACCESS Network, the agency administering the supervised consumption site service, with various stakeholders on hand, including local politicians and representatives from Public Health & Sudbury Districts (PHSD), the Community Drug Strategy Committee, Vale and Wheaton Precious Metals.

The facility received no provincial funding but has received $1.094 million from the City of Greater Sudbury, as well as $100,000 from Vale and $30,000 from Wheaton.

See related: Opioid Crisis: Northern cities working toward supervised consumption sites

The idea behind supervised consumption sites was floated decades ago, back in 1996, but it was only after the opioid crisis really took off that governments began to look seriously at the model.

“Since 1996, the movement has been directed, but since 2018, the Community Drug Strategy has moved the program forward,” Heidi Eisenhauer, executive director of Réseau ACCESS Network told

Sudbury's drug-related death rate has been the highest per capita in the province for years now, those on hand were told. Earlier this year in May, PHSD revealed that more than 100 people had died from opioid related overdoses in 2021 and Sudbury continued to have the highest per capita death rate.

In North Bay, approximately 50 have died from overdoses in each of the past two years, according to a combination of established and preliminary findings from Public Health Ontario.

In May 2021, Greater Sudbury city council voted unanimously in favour of a motion directing staff to exhaust all avenues in order to find a site for these services, and in June that year council selected the property off Energy Court to be the designated location for a temporary supervised consumption site.

“The supervised consumption site took years of sustained effort from multiple groups and individuals to make a reality,” Neil Stephen, manager of consumption and treatment service at Réseau ACCESS Network said in a press release. 

Speaking on behalf of Vale, spokesperson Danica Pagnutti said the facility will save lives.

“We are facing a poisoning drug crisis in our community, and this supervised consumption site will save many lives,” Pagnutti said at the event. 

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit tells BayToday, "Over the past months, a local task force comprised of community partners has been assessing the feasibility of establishing a safe consumption site for North Bay. Unfortunately, the lack of funding to support the start-up and long-term operation and staffing of a safe consumption site has to date prevented us from being able to move forward. Community partners are committed though to continuing to seek funds and work on other initiatives that are known to prevent and reduce overdoses."

According to the City of North Bay's recently adopted Community Safety and Well-Being Plan, the health sector, addictions services providers, and the Health Unit have a one-year timeline to establish and implement harm reduction recommendations while the North Bay Police Service and OPP are to "explore the implementation of a safer opioid supply program," with a timeline of one to three years.

One person at the Sudbury event attested to how the site will save lives, speaking from her own personal experience. Tammy Berger, who is now a harm reduction worker at the new supervised consumption site, says Réseau ACCESS Network changed her life. 

“I was using drugs since I was 15…and I moved out of home when I was 16, because of the abuse that was going on. So I just moved to the streets and just slept wherever I could,” she said.

The 46-year-old harm reduction worker found Réseau ACCESS Network at the age of 25 and began work providing outreach services and making Naloxone kits. 

“Réseau ACCESS Network changed my life,” Berger said. “They listened to my thoughts and my feelings. It simply reminded me that I'm not alone and people out there love me.”

When it comes to the supervised consumption site and the impact it will have, Berger was unequivocal.

“If we had this consumption site back then, I would have been able to start my journey to recovery sooner,” she said. “At the [supervised] consumption site, I hope I play a role and reduce the stigma and discrimination and help those who need it and use drugs here in Greater Sudbury.” 

Eden Suh is a new media reporter for Village Media's