May 3, 2018
RE: Letter of Support for Safe Consumption Facilities
Dear City Councillors,
On behalf of the London Poverty Research Centre, I am writing to express our full support of two proposed Supervised Consumption Facilities (446 York St. and 241 Simcoe St.) in London, Ontario. Our board members are active community members, and some members also engage in direct-line support efforts with individuals who have problematic substance use behaviors. As discussed in our last board meeting this week, the evidence-informed cases of overdoses either witnessed or that have come to our attention have not only included individuals residing in shelters or couch surfing, it has also involved business owners and students. Recreational drugs (such as cocaine and MDMA) and street drugs (such as methamphetamine and heroin) are being laced with fentanyl and, even worse, carfentanyl. Recently, we have heard of individuals running from house-to-house or, more strikingly, business-to-house, knocking on doors looking for emergency help for a friend or someone they have witnessed who has presumably or fatally overdosed. Individuals with substance use issues have reported nothing but positive support for the opening of new facilities. We have heard stories from individuals who expressed the desire to help the community promote such facilities through public engagement efforts (e.g., outreaching and media promotion) and, more importantly, within their own social networks. We hope this letter can also provide a voice for those individuals and others who may currently be experiencing homelessness or living in poverty.
Aside from offering a safe place to use substances, it helps build community participation and social inclusion through anti-oppressive means. Evidence-based research suggests that integrating supervised consumption facilities within the community does not increase substance use and/or criminal activity, rather, it supports cleaner streets and a safer community. We are aware that London is currently in an overdose epidemic and that the spread of deadly infections (e.g., HIV and Hepatitis C) are at above average rates. Implementing community prevention strategies (e.g., the development of supervised consumption facilities) generates long-term cost savings for our local health care systems. Furthermore, supervised consumption facilities will contribute to the City’s existing collaborative approach, which includes Housing First and harm reduction efforts, and offer greater results and support for at-risk individuals. It will build a stronger London that aims to protect the welfare of their residents and be remembered for providing a necessary intervention when it has been called upon. When CPR/First Aid and the administration of Naloxone is quickly becoming normalized by direct-line workers, family members, and bystanders within our community, there is a critical need to act fast in order to prevent this. Together, let us take this opportunity to increase our existing efforts, build a safer community with the best possible care, and further reduce harm and health inequities.
Colleen Van Loon
Board Member, London Poverty Research Centre
*Photo credit: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press