Li­brary Lock­down

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA BROADLEY

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Heather Robin­son shows off the locks that have been placed on the wash­room doors at the St. Thomas public li­brary. The doors have had to be locked as peo­ple are us­ing drugs in the wash­rooms. City hall across the street is hav­ing the same is­sue.

St. Thomas city hall and the li­brary are tak­ing steps to dis­cour­age il­licit drug use within their build­ings.

Li­brary staff have found drug para­pher­na­lia and on rare oc­ca­sions drugs them­selves in public wash­rooms, chief ex­ec­u­tive Heather Robin­son said.

The same is hap­pen­ing across the street at city hall, city man­ager Wen­dell Graves said. Over the past few weeks city hall staff have no­ticed there has been an in­creased use of public wash­rooms on the lower level for drug use.

Po­lice have been do­ing more on-site check­ing and the city has put coded locks on wash­room doors, Graves said.

“It’s so peo­ple have to ask for per­mis­sion to use the wash­room.”

Robin­son said the sharps con­tain­ers in each wash­room at the li­brary have been used to dis­pose of needles af­ter drug use.

“There is ev­i­dence in the sharps con­tain­ers that peo­ple have been cook­ing (drugs),” she said.

One of the most trou­bling things for Robin­son is the fact that some peo­ple were bold enough to use drugs in public ar­eas of the li­brary.

Li­brary staff took de­ci­sive ac­tion to stop the drug use that seemed to be­gin af­ter the po­lice sta­tion next door on St. Catharine Street was va­cated last June, she said.

“We’re not sure if there’s a cor­re­la­tion or not but I’m pretty cer­tain there might be,” Robin­son said.

The li­brary worked closely with the St. Thomas po­lice, who have done fre­quent walk-throughs and even spo­ken to peo­ple sus­pected of us­ing drugs in the wash­rooms.

Li­brary staff has been trained on ways they can dis­cour­age drug use in the build­ing. Robin­son said there was a “ma­jor lock­down” of wash­rooms where locks where fit­ted on each door and pa­trons have to ob­tain a key if they want to use them.

“That has re­ally helped be­cause we were notic­ing two peo­ple go­ing to the wash­rooms at once,” Robin­son said.

The doors on the lower level wash­rooms were re­moved so the staff counter was vis­i­ble. Wash­rooms that are not su­per­vised are still on lock­down, which Robin­son said is a tem­po­rary mea­sure.

The sharps dis­posal kiosk at city hall on Mon­damin Street will be moved to the north east cor­ner of city hall in the spring. Robin­son said she’ll be grate­ful when the kiosk gets moved in be­tween the two build­ings be­cause the more sites there are to dis­pose of needles the bet­ter.

Const. Tanya Calvert with the St. Thomas po­lice said drug users tend to find places in­doors to use when the weather gets cold.

“It’s not so easy, es­pe­cially with in­jectable (drugs), to do them out­side when the weather is cold be­cause part of the process is heat­ing up the prod­uct,” Calvert said.

The li­brary and city hall have al­ways been a part of the ser­vice’s reg­u­lar pa­trol, Calvert said.

On­tario’s first le­gal drug over­dose pre­ven­tion site opened Mon­day in Lon­don as a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion un­til the city can find it a per­ma­nent home. That site has been granted an ex­emp­tion from Canada’s crim­i­nal drug laws.

El­gin- St. Thomas Public Health doesn’t plan to fol­low suit.

Health pro­moter Nancy Lawrence, who works on the health unit’s opi­oid strat­egy, said opi­oid use in the St. Thomas and El­gin re­gion hasn’t reached the level where a drug over­dose pre­ven­tion site is war­ranted.

“We would not say we are in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion in our com­mu­nity.”

Although it’s not con­sid­ered a cri­sis, the health unit does have con­cerns about opi­oid use in the com­mu­nity, she said.

Lawrence said the health unit is aware of what is go­ing on at city hall and the li­brary, which are both public spa­ces.

The health unit will be re­plac­ing all the sharps con­tain­ers in the wash­rooms at the li­brary so that they are tam­per-proof. It will also re­mind drug users not to use alone, to have nalox­one (an an­ti­tode to opi­oid over­doses) and to prop­erly dis­pose of used needles in a sharps con­tainer.

The health unit also op­er­ates a nee­dle ex­change pro­gram where drug users can ac­cess clean sup­plies and re­turns their used sup­plies in sharps con­tain­ers. Drug users can also get a nalox­one kit and be trained how to use it, Lawrence said.

There was a 47 per cent in­crease in nee­dle dis­tri­bu­tion from 2016 to 2017.

“The good news there is peo­ple are get­ting clean sup­plies,” Lawrence said. “It cer­tainly speaks to the vol­ume of ac­tiv­ity in our com­mu­nity.”

LAURA BROADLEY/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

LOUIS PIN/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

The sharps dis­posal kiosk at city hall on Mon­damin Street will be moved to the north east cor­ner of city hall in the spring. City hall and the li­brary are try­ing to cut down on drug use in their wash­rooms.

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