Neighbors talk about new monitored injection site in Charlottetown
Some people who live and do business near 33 Belmont Street in Charlottetown – the location chosen by the provincial government as a monitored injection site – expressed concern on Wednesday about how it could affect property values.
The provincial government calls the site an “overdose prevention agency.” People can bring their own medicines to the facility. These drugs are tested for the presence of dangerous substances such as fentanyl.
People can then use drugs on the spot – intravenously, through the nose and orally. They will be monitored to make sure an overdose does not occur and they will be offered help if one does.
About 40 people attended the first information session on the monitored injection site on Wednesday afternoon.
CBC News spoke to several community members at the meeting, but none asked to be interviewed or publicly identified.
In general, the site’s neighbors said they were concerned about falling property values, negative impacts on businesses in the area and the use of public substances – and many said the government should have consulted them before choosing the site.
Eugene Sauve lives near the site and CBC News reached him by phone on Thursday. He’s not against an injection site, but doesn’t think it’s going to be in the right place, he said.
“You are correct [Confederation] Trail, the busiest section of the trail in Charlottetown,” he said, adding that there’s also a daycare nearby.
“I’m concerned about safety with the kids, the elderly and being close to the homes in the area. That is my main concern.”
We don’t want this to become a second location similar to Euston Street. – Karen Cudmore
Karen Cudmore also lives near the compound. She believes the Charlottetown Outreach Center has caused problems for its neighbors, and she doesn’t want to see the same problems on Belmont Street.
“My primary concern is safety for the neighbors and businesses in and around the proposed — or completed — site,” she said.
“There is already a center on Euston Street that is needed but it seems to have become a problem for this area. And we don’t want this to be a second location similar to Euston Street.”
“We know that overdose prevention facilities reduce the use of public substances and reduce needle discards — two challenges we face today,” said Shawn Martin, harm reduction coordinator at the Chief Public Health Office.
He added that clean needles would be provided to users and used needles would be disposed of on site.
knocking on doors
In addition to two public consultations Wednesday, officials were knocking on doors of neighbors in the area to assess concerns, Martin said. However, some people at the meeting said they heard about the site through local media.
While other options were considered, the Belmont Street location was chosen because it is within a 20-minute walk of other services, including the Charlottetown Outreach Center and the Park Street emergency shelter, Martin said.
Overdoses are announced. Unfortunately, overdose deaths have increased. – Shawn Martin
A fence will be erected for privacy and staff will be present outside the facility to “ensure safe and orderly operations,” Martin said.
“It allows us to establish a service to address the urgent public health needs we face today. Overdoses have increased. Unfortunately, overdose deaths have increased,” Martin said, adding that 1.6kg of fentanyl was recently seized by the RCMP.
There have been at least 30 opioid-related PEI overdoses in 2022, but officials are still waiting for figures from the final months of the year before determining a total as well as how many of those overdoses resulted in deaths, according to a slideshow presented at the meeting was presented.
Some participants in the public gathering expressed concern that drug users were being paid to take part in a government survey.
Martin said people were given a $10 grocery gift card to entice them to attend.
“I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes. I don’t have their expertise,” he said. “So when we take the time and talk to them … it’s important that they are compensated for their time and expertise.”
Of the 55 people surveyed who had experienced drug use, 87 percent said they would use the site, he said.
A provincial government press release on Wednesday announced that the PEERS Alliance had been selected to operate the new facility.
“Community members have informed the PEERS Alliance that we have needed supervised consumption services in our province since about 2018,” said Angele DesRoches, program director at PEERS.
“I’m excited to see where this can lead [and] I also really appreciate the drug control services that are run from the site and really allow people to make informed choices about what they are consuming,” said Tessa Rogers, street coordinator for PEERS.
“Be a Good Neighbor”
DesRoches said she understands the concerns of people living near the center.
“The space was part of the contract, so we look forward to working with decision makers to find out how they are set up to support us,” she said.
“Being a good neighbor is very important to us – being able to not only meet the needs of the participants, but also to respond to the needs of the community… For us, this project is only a success if we can do it Be a good neighbor.”
Some of the concerns DesRoches has heard about have already happened — like people camping in the area or throwing away needles, she said.
“We hope that launching an overdose prevention website will help solve or address some of these problems,” she said.
The monitored injection site will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the site is open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Martin said.
A tender for the renovation of the building is ongoing and ends on February 14th. The center is scheduled to open in the spring.