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One Month In, Peterborough Safe Consumption And Treatment Services Site Is Busier Than Anticipated According To Officials

300 visits so far; “This place is so chill,” among reactions from those people using facility

PETERBOROUGH-The manager of Peterborough’s Safe Consumption and Treatment Services Site (CTS) said the facility has been busier than expected during its first month of operation. It opened in the old Greyhound bus terminal at Simcoe and Aylmer Streets one month ago today, on June 13. The facility allows individuals who use illicit drugs, specifically with a needle, to bring their drugs to the site, prepare and use them in a safe environment without the fear of legal prosecution. They can also swallow or snort their drugs at the Peterborough site. 

“We were told by other CTS sites in Ontario that we could expect the first month to be slow, but we have been pretty steady,” said Kerri Kightley, manager of the Peterborough site. “We have fifty-plus service users registered and we have had a steady stream – 10-20 visits per day.  We have had 300 visits so far. But some people don’t just use substances once a day. Some users have been seeing us multiple times a day. Our service users are welcome to come back as many times as they need during the hours we are open. We may have 10-20 visits in a day, but that may be from only ten people.”

Kightley said almost half the users at the site are using suspected Fentanyl or another opioid while almost a quarter of users have consumed cocaine. Twelve per cent are using methamphetamine (crystal meth) while 16 per cent are using some other kind of drug.  

Kightley said the site has not been problem-free as there have been some users whom they have had to treat after an adverse reaction to their drugs. Staff have either had to give them oxygen or arouse and monitor them after their reaction. She added they have not had to use Naloxone, an opioid effect reversal drug or their defibrillator on any of the users suffering an adverse reaction. Kightley said none of them have been rushed to hospital.

“That’s kind of the whole idea right. We have expertise on site. We don’t have drug testing capacity on site so we use our best guess as to what has happened to them. We do have a test strip that will test for fentanyl. We are hoping that by the fall we will have our mass spectrometer up and running and then we will have a more clear, real-time sense of what’s in the drugs that’s giving them an adverse reaction,” she said. 

Kightley went on to say that users do not have to register to use the facility. She added that is all part of the protocol where they do everything possible to preserve the users anonymity.  

“They still go through the same process of collecting information about what substances they are using or whether they’ve had a recent overdose. We do ask them to agree to our service user agreement but if they don’t want to share any identifying information at all, then that’s totally fine,” Kightley said. 

She added that they are not yet keeping track of the ages of gender of those using the facility. You must be 16 or older to use the site. 

Kightley said she thinks they’ve been busy right from the start due to what she described as the excellent work done by PARN (Peterborough Aids Resource Network) in the past two years developing relationships with intravenous drug users and making them understand that the  Simcoe St. site has reliable, safe, high-quality service. She thinks that is part of the reason why they have been busy early on. 

Kightley said the response from the people using the site has been positive. 

“I think everyone is impressed by the space itself and the respect that they are getting from our staff. It remains a bit of a weird concept to bring your substances to an agency and be able to prepare and consume them on-site. But people have been really positive about the need for the service and the comfort they feel here. One user described the site as so chill,” Kightley said. 

The need for such a site in Peterborough has been evident for years officials say. But that was tragically emphasized in April when Peterborough Public Health reported seven suspected drug-related deaths in that month alone.

At that time, Kawartha 411 reached out to Peterborough artist and recovering drug addict Alex Bierk. He said he had lost countless friends in Peterborough to drug addiction and overdoses and was a staunch supporter of the safe consumption site. Bierk has since become somewhat of a spokesperson on the opioid crisis in the city having appeared on national media following the Kawartha 411 story. He told Kawartha 411 that what he has heard so far is that the safe consumption site is “running really well.”

Kawartha 411 also reached out to Peterborough Public Health for their reaction to the safe consumption site – one month in. We had yet to hear back as of publishing time. 

There are similar sites operating in Ontario in Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Ottawa, St. Catharines, Thunder Bay and Toronto. 

This is the fifth in a series of stories Kawartha 411 has been writing on the opioid crisis in Peterborough and across the Kawarthas.

 

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John McFadden
After graduating from Fanshawe College in London, Ont. with a diploma in broadcast journalism John began his career right here in the Kawarthas at what was then called CKLY in Lindsay. From there John went to CHEX-TV and Wolf Radio in Peterborough as a TV and radio news and sportscaster and morning radio show co-host. John moved on to City-TV and CP24 in Toronto. He covered and reported on many important stories including the SARS outbreak. John then moved to the CBC in Toronto as a senior news writer and sports producer.Wanting a change of scenery John went to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 2012 where he earned seven National Community Newspaper Awards covering stories in Canada's Arctic while working for Northern News Services.He returned to Ontario in 2021 and has been writing news stories for Kawartha 411 since late 2021.

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