11 Innisfil St. endorsed by Barrie council for supervised consumption site

Barrie city council gave its long-awaited endorsement of 11 Innisfil Street as the location of a supervised consumption site for the community.

Nearly two dozen residents voiced their opinions on the heavily debated location during Monday evening's council meeting.

Namaste North owner Meghan Huehn said she felt councillors had already made up their minds. "The feeling was kind of like council was just ready to make a choice. They were like, 'We have a location. This works. Let's go.'"

"Whether you were thinking for or against this site, people were constructive, and they are engaged, and they were interested in making their neighbourhood a safer place," said Ward 2 councillor Keenan Aylwin.

Ultimately, the site was granted approval to tackle the city's growing opioid crisis.

Dr. Lisa Simon, Simcoe Muskoka associate medical officer of health, said the decision would help serve people in the community who use drugs. "As the planning proceeds, we are committed to continuing to work with the local neighbourhood and people who use drugs to ensure the best possible services."

Huehn admitted she remains nervous about the supervised consumption site's location being close to her Bradford Street business.  "I want what's best for everybody and for everyone to be safe, but it's about finding that balance," she said.

The health unit reported 94 confirmed and probable opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka in the first eight and a half months of 2020 - 50 per cent higher than the previous three years.

"Over the past couple years that we have been discussing this issue, we have lost about 200 people in our community, so it was a moving and an important moment for our city," Aylwin said.

If the federal and provincial governments approve the location, it will be home to a wide range of services, including supervised consumption, addictions and mental health, social services and primary care.

In a release, the health unit said it would continue to gather feedback from residents. "Ongoing community engagement and planning will continue while decisions from Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health are pending."

With files from CTV's Alessandra Carneiro