Hamilton AIDS charity pulls application for addictions treatment site


Published October 16, 2023 at 3:49 pm

safe consumption sites drugs opioids opioid crisis
Research has shown the benefits of consumption treatment services sites such as this one in Vancouver. COURTESY OF INSITE, PHS COMMUNITY SERVICES SOCIETY, VANCOUVER

A Hamilton-based AIDS charity has withdrawn its application to operate a consumption treatment services site in the city.

Citing the recent provincial review of the services and pause on new applications, the AIDS Network announced its decision on social media on Oct. 11.

The AIDS Network provides services involving HIV/AIDS prevention, education and support for residents in Hamilton, Halton, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant.

The site would have offered wraparound support connecting people with substance addictions to health and social services. 

In August, the province launched a “critical incident review” and suspended applications in the wake of the daytime shooting death of a mother of two near a Toronto consumption treatment site on July 7.  Karolina Huebner-Makurat was hit by a stray bullet following a fight between three men.

“We have been engaged in discussions over the past few months with our Board, Hamilton Public Health Services, Ministry of Health staff and other community partners,” wrote Tim McClemont, executive director of the AIDS Network, in a Facebook post. “We thank Mayor Andrea Horwath and Councillor Nann for their support of life saving harm reduction programs and services. We look forward to working within the many communities we serve and continuing our mission and vision.”

McClemont said the landlord at 746 Barton Street East expressed interest in renting the space for community purposes.

He said the organization didn’t have any extra funding while it was engaged in a two-year process to apply for a consumption treatment services site. It submitted the application on behalf of many partners, including Hamilton Public Health Services.

Despite the setback, the AIDS Network said it supports the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre’s application for a second site in the city at 413 Cannon St.

A 2017 study found that Hamilton would benefit from these services. Research in Canada and globally showed its benefits include saving lives from drug overdoses and reducing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. At these sites, people take drugs in a “safe, hygienic environment” under the supervision of trained harm reduction staff.

Back in June, Hamilton approved its opioid action plan to address the worsening addiction crisis.

As part of the plan, it aimed to scale up supervised consumption sites this year. 

Hamilton declared “a state of emergency” over the opioid addictions, mental health and homelessness crises.

According to the City, data shows opioid overdoses have been increasing. In the first four months of 2023, 336 opioid-related paramedic calls were made in Hamilton, higher than the same four-month period in 2021 and 2022. 

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