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Barrie advocates to rally for Supervised Consumption site

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Advocates, health care workers and community groups are renewing the fight to have Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) funded in Ontario.

A rally at Queen's Park is planned for Tuesday and will include advocates from Barrie, Timmins, Sudbury and Windsor, all calling on the Ford government to halt its review of provincially funded CTS sites.

Sarah Tilley is the Harm Reduction Manager at the Gilbert Centre in Barrie, an agency that helps provide crucial community support.

The Centre has advocated for Barrie's CTS application to be approved for years. The application was submitted to the province in October 2021 and has remained in limbo ever since.

"The delay to CTS Applications is punitive and irresponsible," Tilley told CTV News. "It is costing money, it is costing lives, it is costing dignity. We're seeing a lot of poverty , and we're seeing a lot of homelessness , and it's much easier to blame people who use drugs for these concerns rather than looking at the policies that are impacting people's lives and addressing them in a realistic way."

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has been a strong advocate for the CTS proposal's approval. Last year, it launched a campaign asking residents to lobby the government for its approval.

"Consumption and Treatment Services help save lives and create safer communities. They provide a clean, safe, and non-judgemental space for people to use their own drugs under the care of health care and non-health care staff," reads a statement on its website. "As relationships are developed with clients, they are offered referrals to primary care, mental health and addictions treatment, and other health and social services.  A CTS would also help to reduce public drug use and improperly discarded needles. For all of these reasons, a CTS is desperately needed in the City of Barrie."

The Ford government launched a review after a fatal shooting outside a Toronto CTS site last July.

"These reviews include consulting with Public Health, community engagement and reviewing complaints against the CTS sites," reads a statement from the Ministry of Health. "These reviews remain ongoing and will inform the next steps taken by the Ministry of Health, including funding, location and application decisions. All applications remain on pause."

Tilley said the incident shouldn't matter when it comes to saving the lives of many during a worsening health care crisis.

"The gun violence that happened outside of one of the CTS applications in Toronto is heartbreaking," she added. "But it's not something that should delay equitable health care to all Ontarians."

Around 25 people from the Gilbert Centre are expected to attend Tuesday's rally at Queen's Park.

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