Cam­bridge needs to face its drug re­al­ity

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - LUISA D’AMATO ldam­ato@there­cord.com Twit­ter: @Dam­a­toRecord

Start own­ing your drug prob­lem, Cam­bridge.

Those words may be harsh, but so are the re­sults of a sur­vey re­leased Fri­day by the Re­gion of Water­loo.

Lo­cal res­i­dents were asked to sug­gest places where ad­dicts can con­sume il­le­gal drugs with med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion, and the of­fer of help over­com­ing ad­dic­tion.

In Cam­bridge, “the ma­jor­ity of sug­ges­tions were Cam­bridge Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal,” said a re­port that re­gional coun­cil­lors will dis­cuss Tues­day.

One can un­der­stand why peo­ple in the down­town Galt area, which has a big prob­lem with dis­carded nee­dles and opi­oid over­dose, want to push these trou­bles else­where.

But the hospi­tal is a bad place to lo­cate a su­per­vised drug con­sump­tion site.

First, it’s too far away from Galt’s core area which is one of two “hot spots” for drug over­dose. (The other is down­town Kitch­ener.)

“Often, peo­ple who strug­gle with ad­dic­tion will not travel long dis­tances to use sub­stances be­cause the power of the ad­dic­tion is too strong,” says the re­port.

Drug users say they’d walk up to 10 min­utes to use a site. The hospi­tal is much fur­ther away than that from Galt’s core. That means there’s “a very big risk” that the prov­ince would deny fund­ing to a con­sump­tion site there, said Karen Quigley-Hobbs, the re­gion’s direc­tor of in­fec­tious dis­eases, den­tal and sex­ual health.

The other downside is that most hos­pi­tals feel too large and im­per­sonal for a per­son us­ing il­le­gal drugs. Many have been re­moved from homes, jobs and re­la­tion­ships. They know they’re un­wanted. They need a small, friendly fa­cil­ity.

Cam­bridge coun­cil­lors say they’re all for a su­per­vised drug con­sump­tion cen­tre, just not in the core. They often ar­gue that the down­towns are too small and vul­ner­a­ble to sus­tain so much il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

In April, Cam­bridge city coun­cil passed an in­terim by­law ban­ning drug con­sump­tion sites from the core ar­eas of Preston, Galt and He­speler.

Even if the re­gion goes ahead with plans for a con­sump­tion site in down­town, it still has to get con­sent from Cam­bridge coun­cil. That’s un­likely to hap­pen, and cer­tainly not be­fore the Oc­to­ber mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion. There’s more.

Two weeks ago, in a sur­prise an­nounce­ment, the city’s down­town Galt shel­ter for the home­less sug­gested it may be re­lo­cat­ing out of the core.

The 78-bed Bridges shel­ter says it has out­grown its build­ing on Sim­coe Street. This has cre­ated “pres­sures on our or­ga­ni­za­tion that have been im­pact­ing on the qual­ity of the sup­ports we have been pro­vid­ing,” said board chair Julie Watts.

Cam­bridge Mayor Doug Craig said it will re­lo­cate out­side the core.

Bridges is viewed as a light­ning rod for con­cerns about drug ad­dic­tion, un­safe dis­carded nee­dles, loi­ter­ing and so on.

It would be highly un­usual for a shel­ter for home­less peo­ple to move out of the core of any city, where pub­lic tran­sit and so­cial ser­vices are.

Maybe some­one thinks that if Bridges moves out of the core, the drug ad­dicts will fol­low, and the drug con­sump­tion site can go some­where else.

But you can’t get rid of a prob­lem just by mov­ing it around.

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