Skip to content

Cambridge drug consumption site in doubt as province reaches funding cap

'It's going to cost Cambridge thousands of lives,' say experts over the province's decision to limit the number of CTS in Ontario and potentially exclude Cambridge from funding
The proposed safe consumption site at 150 Main St. in Cambridge.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared on CambridgeToday, a local news site operated by Village Media. 

The province may have dealt a huge blow to the efforts of local service providers, frontline health-care workers and those affected by drug poisoning as they look to fill their remaining spots for Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) sites in Ontario. 

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed to CambridgeToday that they will only be funding 21 sites in the province and has provided a list of 17 currently in operation, including the Kitchener location. 

"The Ministry of Health has allocated up to $31.3 million in annual funding for up to 21 CTS sites in communities in need across the province," said Bill Campbell, media relations for MOH. 

Recently revealed in a report by The Trillium, there are five pending applications on the province's desk. 

Those applications are from Barrie, Sudbury, Windsor and two other communities not yet disclosed by the province. 

This would mean that with the current 17 locations plus the five applications, one of the pending sites would not be approved. 

Any other community looking to get a site in their city would not be eligible by the current provincial guidelines, including Cambridge. 

Ruth Cameron executive director for the AIDS Committee Of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo & Area (ACCKWA), said their application to operate the Cambridge site has not been submitted to the province. 

"The application has not been presented to the province," said Cameron. "We are still following our plan to compile as much information to make the application as complete as possible." 

Despite the apparent obstacle, ACCKWA will continue to push forward with their application to bring the life-saving measure to the city. 

"CTS is vitally important in Cambridge, and in many communities across Ontario. We have completed our data collection, we know our case is robust," Cameron said. "We also remain committed to being open and transparent and will share any updates affecting the outcome of this much-needed service with the community."

Waterloo region drug strategist Micheal Parkinson thinks this arbitrary number of 21 sites and the potential exclusion of the harm reduction service in Cambridge will cost thousands of lives as the drug crisis continues to spiral out of control. 

"I don't know how they came up with 21 as a number. Was someone playing blackjack and thought 21 sounds like a good fit? It doesn't make any sense," Parkinson said. "There just seems to be an overall lack of strategy and the decisions, all with political implications are going to get people killed." 

Parkinson has been an advocate of safe consumption sites as a way to reduce deaths for over a decade and has spent much of his time working in these sites and closely with their providers throughout the region. 

He thinks the province will most likely stick with their imposed cap of 21 sites until other information is provided. 

"It could all be changed with the stoke of a pen, but the decision lies solely with the province," he added. "I've never seen any evidence to substantiate that 21 is the ideal number of CTS locations in the province and all the coroner data since 2016 indicates that a fulsome emergency response is required."

The province is remaining tight lipped on whether they will change the limit of 21 sites and will not provide comment on what is likely to happen for communities like Cambridge as ACCKWA nears the end of the arduous application process. 

"At the end of the day all of this debate and political theatre is quite literally over a room with a table, a chair and a set of eyes to make sure someone doesn't die," added Parkinson. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks