Survey seeks public input on permanent overdose prevention site in Timmins

An effort by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) is underway to get public feedback about establishing a longer-term overdose prevention site in Timmins.

People have already likely heard about Safe Health Site Timmins, but that's only a temporary solution. Residents of NOSM have created a survey that asks what concerns or ideas people may have about a permanent overdose prevention site.

The survey is a requirement of the application process.

"You know from doing this now and being so involved I find kind of sad that we have to do that ... that we have to prove to the government that we have a big problem here and people are dying," said Dr. Julie Samson, supervisor of the survey for NOSM.

"But we still have to go through those hoops ... to get a site going which could take two to three years."

A temporary site will open soon in Timmins. Safe Health Site Timmins (SHST) offers people with addictions a safe place to use pre-obtained drugs, but SHST will only be financed for a short term by the municipality and only because it's an emergency

Last year, according to Ontario's Chief Coroner's Office, 33 people died from opioid overdoses in Timmins, putting the city second (behind Thunder Bay) in the province at opioid overdose deaths per capita.

"We’re not in the business of whose life gets saved, right?" said Samson.

"Everyone should have access to life-saving treatment, just like someone presenting with a heart attack. We save their lives. You know, these patients, if they leave our department without treatment, we’re failing them. And that’s changed in our city for sure."

Samson said there are more withdrawal management services available at the Timmins and District Hospital and lives are being saved.

But, she added, Timmins also needs a permanent overdose prevention site, funded by the province and equipped with a variety of health services for people with addictions.

A member of the Timmins and Area Drug Strategy said public input from the survey will help them plan the site.

"And we want everybody’s input -- anyone who lives, studies or works in Timmins or close by is able to participate as long as you’re 16 years of age and older," said Tina Brunet, a program manager and public health nurse with the Porcupine Health Unit.

"We’ll take that data and compile it. We will also ensure there are ways that we can get the results of that survey back out to the public."

The trilingual survey is open for the month of May. Respondents can complete it online in English, French or Cree here.

Contact NOSM or PHU for details. Paper surveys are also available upon request.