As overdose deaths climb, new supervised consumption site still months away
LONDON, ONT. -- The severity of the opioid crisis is no surprise to those who have lost friends and family to overdoses.
Fifty-two-year-old ‘Glen’ is mourning seven people who have died.
“I met them when I first moved to London,” he recounts while sitting on the sidewalk on York Street. “They were into certain things, and now they’re gone.”
“We still are in an opioid crisis. Too many people are dying on the streets of London,” says Brian Lester, executive director at London HIV/AIDS Connection.
Operating the Carepoint Consumption and Treatment Service, staff have seen how COVID-19 is exacerbating London’s opioid crisis.
Economic impacts, stay-at-home orders and a riskier local drug supply has proven to be a deadly mix.
And recently, construction adjacent to 186 King St. has made accessing the supervised drug consumption site more difficult.
Lester is eager to move the service to its new 446 York St. location.
“We’re providing a pretty comprehensive support system for people who are walking through our door,” he explains. “So we are concerned about the vulnerability of people when they can’t get into our space.”
Last July, the courts denied an appeal by neighbours who oppose the York Street location.
In November, the provincial government approved funding.
Work is still underway on architectural plans for the interior and exterior spaces, but if the site plan is approved by the province this summer, then construction could be tendered in time for fall construction.
“Our goal is to be in the Carepoint space at the latest in the end of November. Ideally, operating in there by Dec. 1 -- World AIDS Day,” adds Lester.
But Glen worries about a long summer and fall when hundreds of others in London will risk using drugs alone.
He would like to see an immediate community response to overdoses.
“Instead of turning a blind-eye to people, maybe take some time and try helping somebody.”