In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.
These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here.
Today's spotlight is on Sudbury.com's Jenny Lamothe, whose story 'Advocates rally to save The Spot' was published on Dec. 1.
Here is the original story if you need to catch up:
A gathering led by the N’Swakamok Harm Reduction Collective came together in Memorial Park Nov. 30, hoping their rallying cry of “Save the Spot” will reach the ears of the provincial government.
The Spot, Sudbury’s supervised consumption site, is pushing for the provincial funding they applied for two years ago with greater urgency as it gets closer to their existing funding’s end date, Dec. 31.
“We’re here to save Sudbury’s only supervised consumption site,” said event organizer, Kryslyn Mohan of the N’Swakamok Harm Reduction Coalition. “It saddens me that I say these words amidst a housing crisis, rising poverty, increasing cost of living and an unprecedented drug toxicity crisis that is not slowing down, it will only get worse yet.”
The Spot has been awaiting funding from the province since it began its operations. Lacking provincial dollars, it ran on $1.094 million from City of Greater Sudbury coffers, as well as $100,000 from Vale and $30,000 from Wheaton.
But this year, the City of Greater Sudbury’s draft budget, which was tabled in November and will be debated by city council in December, will not include funding for the supervised consumption site.
The site will close without further funding.
Though the province is pointing to a shooting that took place at a consumption site in Toronto in July as a reason to re-evaluate every site in Ontario, some have said the pause is an attempt to end the harm reduction sites.
But the Spot does appear to be making a difference. Between Sept. 28, 2022, and Aug. 31 (the opening of The Spot and the last date of a recent study) a total of 470 unique clients accessed The Spot, representing 1,181 total visits and 1,605 total consumptions. The Spot reversed a total of 20 overdose (toxic poisoning) events, and no overdose required emergency medical service.
“Research shows that this kind of service is part of a health-care system that saves lives very directly, and we're afraid for what's going to happen to Sudbury, knowing what the numbers are already,” said Ray Landry, co-ordinator of housing services for the Homelessness Network. “We're helping people with overdoses, we carry more Naloxone than we ever have, our street outreach teams are concerned about it on a daily basis,” he said. “And you don't need to be a regular user to be at risk with your life, it's just the product is so toxic these days that anyone using, for the first time or for the 100th time, puts themselves at risk. We fear for what's coming if the site closes.
Both Sudbury MPP Jamie West and Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas were in attendance at the Nov. 30 rally.
Gelinas holds the same fears as supporters of The Spot. Brought to tears as she spoke to Sudbury.com, she said the lack of funding for the program is “almost criminal.”
“How can you turn your back on a program that saves lives every single week?” she asked. “The issue is also a case of inequitable health care for those in the north.
“In every other community in Ontario, I'm really happy to say that the rate of deaths from overdose is going down,” said Gélinas. “Except for in my community, except for Northern Ontario, Timmins, and Sudbury; there, the number of deaths continued to go up, the number of overdoses continue to go up.”
The services at The Spot, including drug testing and support staff, had begun to change this reality, she said. “This is the lifeline for many, many people to stay alive,” the MPP said.
She noted tomorrow’s date, Dec. 1, the day income supplement cheques arrive.
“Lots of people who get paid once a month will get paid tomorrow. I guarantee you this weekend, somebody will die,” she said, almost overcome. “I don't want to say it, but I know that this is what will happen. This is what happens every month.”
She also said that the $1 million in funding needed is not much in comparison to lives saved. “We know that they (The Spot) have saved so many lives for $1 million a year, and $1 million for you and I is a lot of money,” she said. “But $1 million on a budget of $78 billion (the provincial budget) is nothing, and I guarantee you that dozens and dozens of lives will be saved.”
Jenny Lamothe covers vulnerable and marginalized communities for Sudbury.com