Timeline, location now in the air for the monitored injection site of PEI
Following community opposition and the approval of all four District 12 political candidates, the first monitored injection site of PEI is to be moved from its proposed location in Charlottetown.
The site was expected to open this spring, but with the site now up in the air, that timeline is also unclear now.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Mitchell Tweel questioned the current status of the site, noting that a city permit for renovations to the site was still active.
Alex Forbes, the city’s planning and heritage manager, confirmed that the city had indeed issued permits to convert a building at 33 Belmont Street into a monitored injection site. Renovations and the timing of the opening of the center would be up to the applicant – in this case the province.
“Renovation work for the building has been approved, as has use at this site,” Forbes said.
He said it was not up to the city to revoke or cancel the permit once it had candidates, including Progressive Party leader Dennis King, commit to finding another location.
“We don’t revoke permits, we issue permits,” he told council members.
“The only time we would revoke a permit [is] if the person has in any way violated our statutes or something along those lines. If the applicant now decides that they do not wish to further track this location, they can ask us to revoke the permit. We can do this on her behalf.”
Since the supervised injection site in this case is a “provincial-driven project,” the project timing and location are in the hands of the provincial government.
“Not the right place”
On the campaign trail last week, King said he agreed with neighbors at 33 Belmont St. that it was “not the right place” for the monitored injection site, but also said he didn’t expect a delay in opening the service — which he thinks According to the plan, the opening should be “late summer or early autumn at the earliest”.
Forbes said a site change could delay the originally proposed schedule, as the province would have to start the permitting process from scratch by reapplying. He said approval processing times vary depending on staffing levels and whether an application is complete when it’s submitted.
“It depends on the permit, but it could … take at least a month for a permit to be reviewed,” he said. “Sometimes there is a lot of back-and-forth with the applicant when it comes to approval, [if] we need additional information. So, you know, it may take some time.”
Last week, the PEERS Alliance – the organization set to operate the site – said in an email to CBC News that staff were “disappointed” at the prospect of delays and are hoping for urgency in determining a new location.
The location is crucial
Whether the monitored injection site opens on Belmont Street or elsewhere, harm reduction advocates say a central location is key to their success.
Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble Moncton – the organization that operates the monitored injection site in that New Brunswick town – said the facility must be located where people who need its services can easily get there.
“It doesn’t bode well for the ministry if we pull out [access]”, she said. “Individuals may not have transportation and depending on where they live this can really be a problem.”
Warren emphasized that harm reduction services are a form of healthcare that help those living with addiction.
“This is really a health issue. We are not relegating other healthcare services to industrial parks or beyond [city] limits,” she said. “We really need to think about the needs of the people we serve. You really do have a right to just health services, and it’s a very important one.”
Warren said education is important to help community members understand the need for a monitored injection site. Often, she said, people’s fear of the unknown is worse than the reality of having harm reduction services in their neighborhoods.
“I want people to understand: these are your people. These are people who work with you who are family members, nieces, aunts, mothers, fathers. You deserve dignity. Don’t be afraid of them,” she said.
“Honestly, if you treat them with respect and talk to them [and] Don’t ignore them like they’re just a brick on the sidewalk, you’ll soon see beyond the substance they’re using.
Warren said that treating health problems like addiction takes a community effort.
“We all have a moral obligation to work together on this. It saves lives,” she said.
PEI location still uncertain
In an email to CBC News, the Department of Health and Wellness said planned renovations at 33 Belmont St. had not yet taken place and no new location had been identified.
Forbes confirmed that it had not heard directly from the province about plans for the site.
“If they want to haunt this place, that’s entirely up to them,” he said of Belmont Street.
“But if they want to revoke that permit and move to a new location, all they have to do is give us that clarity.”