Provincial government can't provide timeline on when CTS reviews will be complete
Time is ticking until the Windsor Essex County Health Unit meets again to make budgeting decisions for 2024, which will impact the future of Safepoint, while the provincial government continues its review of all Consumption and Treatment Sites in Ontario.
Board officials say the answer to when the reviews will wrap up, and when funding could potentially be made available, are extremely important for determining the future of Safepoint at their meeting on November 20.
The province launched a "critical incident review" in the summer, after a 44-year-old mother of two was killed by a stray bullet near a consumption site in Toronto's east end following a physical altercation between three men.
On Friday, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo was in Windsor, but couldn't provide a timeline for when those reviews may be complete.
(Photo taken by AM800's Rob Hindi)
"We're in the process, we're just waiting now for the review to come back from the individual that's been charged with it. We're all anxiously awaiting, I don't have a specific date, but I'm obviously very anxious to hear what the outcome is going to be."
He says harm reduction is part of the continuum of care, but the government's priority is treatment and recovery.
WECHU has Health Canada approval to operate SafePoint as an urgent public health needs site at the corner of Wyandotte Street and Goyeau Street in downtown Windsor, but it still needs approval from the province to be officially designated as a consumption and treatment services site.
Tibollo says the situation in Toronto was very unfortunate, but they have broader concerns about public safety and the review will give them an indication of how they can improve the safety of not just the users of these sites but the communities they find themselves.
"We've seen issues in other communities, and believe me, I get litanies of letters asking me to review the situation," he continued. "This is why the most responsible thing the government can do is have a review that's objective, and that will come back and make recommendations that we will implement."
In terms of the Windsor application specifically, Tibollo says it was in a process of being looked at before the reviews began.
"I don't know how far along they were in the process because I think there were two or three that were moving through our system in the government. I don't know how far they got, but unfortunately that incident put a stop on absolutely everything in that particular department," he said.
Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky says the fact the government can't provide a timeline is completely unacceptable.
(Photo taken by AM800's Rob Hindi)
"There are incidents that we see happen on the TTC in Toronto on a daily basis, unfortunate things that happen on the TTC, they don't shut down the entire transit system while they're investigating. We have liquor licence's that are being issued to bars, they don't stop issuing those liquor licence's because a bar in another jurisdiction had an incident," Gretzky stated.
She says there's a huge human cost to these delays, as the usage of Safepoint has grown exponentially since it opened with more people getting comfortable accessing the available services.
"Getting connected to healthcare, primary healthcare, mental health supports, housing supports. Those numbers are growing at a very quick rate here in Windsor-Essex, and so to not fund it and potentially have to have it shutdown, those are lives that are at risk of dying by overdose or ending up on the streets and living homeless."
Gretzky says her understanding was Windsor's application was complete, all of the boxes that needed to be checked were, and everything that was asked of the health unit had all been completed and submitted before the incident in Toronto took place.
She says there's absolutely no reason to put all of the applications on hold to investigate a situation in another jurisdiction.
"We know that there have been no security incidences at Safepoint, we know that there has been no need for them to call first responders of any kind to react to an emergency or a crisis there. We know that it's working, we know that people are getting connected to supports and services, and going on to be successful in their lives," Gretzky said.
Tibollo says the message from the government to Windsor-Essex is they're working as diligently as they can on the reviews, so they can get locations like Safepoint organized and set up for people to get the help they need.
- with files from AM800's Rob Hindi