Guelph Consumption and Treatment Site Saves, Improves Lives, Health Officials Say


The site recorded 5,500 visits from 185 people in its first year, with 49 reverse overdoses

It’s not just about saving lives, the Guelph consumption and treatment services site is helping to make positive changes in the lives of many, local officials agree, looking back on the 2.5-year service. operation of the center.

“We see addiction as a chronic health problem, so we treat it like we treat any other chronic health problem, with enveloping programs and services,” said Melissa Kwiatkowski, director of primary care at the Guelph Community Health Center. (GCHC), who runs the center.

“A lot of the fears that arise before sites launch are based on fear and stigma. Fears and worries don’t actually happen in reality.

Operated from GCHC’s Wyndham Street location, the CTS site offers two kiosks where drug users can inject under the supervision and supervision of trained medical personnel, access harm reduction supplies. and naloxone kits, as well as receiving support and referrals regarding addiction treatment, care, mental health and social services.

Between early April 2020 and late March 2021, the CTS received approximately 5,500 visits from 185 people. During this period, 49 overdoses were reversed, and one person was taken to hospital for treatment.

These are important statistics in and of themselves, argues Kwiatkowski, but there is more.

This period also saw around 150 people connected to drug treatment services, nearly 300 referrals to social services such as employment, food and housing, and around 200 referrals to primary care services for referrals. acute, urgent or chronic medical problems.

“The wrap-around supports are really important,” Kwiatkowski said. “We are reducing the demand on the emergency department, on acute care. We connect people with comprehensive support services that support their overall health and reduce rates of infectious diseases and other things.

Before the pandemic, the center accommodated on average between 35 and 40 people per day. It is now around 20, largely due to the COVID-related precautions that have been put in place.

Without the CTS, Kwiatkowski thinks we would see a lot more of what was seen before the center opened – people using drugs in the open and in dangerous spaces, more needles thrown in the community and loss of life.

“When we fail the most vulnerable in our society, it actually pulls the whole community down,” commented Mayor Cam Guthrie, who recently urged Cambridge City Council to open a CTS in his community. “We need to embrace these types of sites… not just for people but for our community so people can get the help they need. “

Initially, Guthrie was not behind the idea of ​​having an earlier version of a CTS site in Guelph. When the concept first surfaced, he believed, like others, that they were simply allowing drug addicts and ruining the neighborhoods they were in, while also encouraging more crime.

He is now ashamed of having thought so.

“A lot of it, I think, was just about the lack of openness at the time to ask questions of clarity and… how it would work, how it could actually help people,” the mayor explained. “I had a biased opinion on how it would turn out.

“A lot of those opinions were very negative. “

This previous incarnation of a CTS, known as the overdose protection site, did not need city council support to be operational, but when permanent approval was sought in 2019 as a result of the project pilot for a year, it was a different scenario.

Guthrie said he changed his mind on the idea even before the pilot project began, having better understood how the program would be run and how it would help people.

By the time a request for the permanent site came to the council, they agreed with the idea and gave their unanimous support.

When asked why he felt compelled to speak to Cambridge City Council, Guthrie said he believed they could benefit from his experience.

“I wanted the makers to hear from someone who made this thing work for exactly three years in the city. My point of view, I think, is important for people to hear when people’s lives are at stake, ”added the mayor.

As for GCHC’s CTS satellite operating out of the Loyola House temporary supportive housing project at the Jesuit Ignatius Center in the city’s north, it is slated to end next month, Kwiatkowski said.

Health Canada’s approval for the site expires at the end of November, when Wellington County’s lease also expires and it must find a new location for its program to tackle homelessness.

There are no plans to seek approval for a new satellite site, Kwiatkowski noted.

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