Council votes to track supervised drug consumption site data, hire program coordinator

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Council heard that there were 62 suspected opioid-related deaths in the city during the first four months of 2023, which was higher than the same four-month period in 2021 and 2022. Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward. 


Hamilton City Council recently voted to launch a new open data program complete with an “evaluative framework” that tracks “the community impact of supervised consumption sites” in the municipality.

A City of Hamilton webpage states that “Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) are locations where people consume pre-obtained drugs in a safe, hygienic environment under the supervision of trained and authorized harm reduction staff.”

“These services reduce the harm caused from substance use (e.g. overdose, infection), while offering additional services such as counselling, primary care, addiction treatment, and connection to critical social supports such as housing,” the webpage notes.

The city currently has one CTS site located at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Downtown Hamilton at 70 James Street South.

The location is operated by Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre.

There is also a similar site at the YWCA Hamilton’s Carole Anne’s Place location “for women and non-binary individuals.” 

It reportedly operates similar to a CTS site but is called an “Urgent Public Health Needs site.”

Council passed a new Opioid Action Plan in August 2023 that calls for “scaling up Supervised Consumption Sites across the city.”

Hamilton City Council also declared opioid overdoses and poisoning a state of emergency back in April 2023.

Council also heard during that time that there were 62 suspected opioid-related deaths in the city during the first four months of 2023, which was higher than the same four-month period in 2021 and 2022.

The new framework approved by council will see the city track and report on site usage, recording “non-identifiable demographics” and “visits.”

The framework itself is a one-page flow chart which can be found here.

The city will also track involvement of police services, issues with needle litter, the number of overdoses and deaths, 911 calls, clients transported to the emergency department, and referrals to wrap-around care.

Community perspectives will also be collected including the views of “community organizations, working groups, and people who use drugs.”

However, the framework notes that data sharing agreements would need to be put in place with CTS sites.

During debate on the new open data program and evaluative framework Councillor John-Paul Danko (Ward 8 – West/Central Mountain) noted that he was “having trouble” with the evaluative framework.

“It focuses on community partners, AKA advocacy groups, it focuses on actual drug users, it focuses on working groups (people associated with the safe consumption sites), but there’s really nothing formally in here about the actual community that’s going to be impacted by this, you know, the actual residents, the businesses, the property owners.”

“I’m not sure I can support the evaluative framework without formalizing centering it on the community,” Danko continued.

Other councillors, including Councillor Brad Clark (Ward 9 – Upper Stoney Creek), agreed with Danko that engagement with the general public seemed to be missing from the framework.

Councillor Nrinder Nann (Ward 3 – East Hamilton Centre) therefore moved an amendment, which was seconded by Clark, to have “local community engagement” added to the framework.

The amendment was approved, and the framework overall was also passed. 

The vote was 12 to 1 in favour of the framework, with Councillor Esther Pauls (Ward 7 – Central Mountain) the only vote against.

As part of the vote, Council also approved hiring a full-time Program Evaluation Coordinator “to support the operationalization and execution of the evaluative framework, at an anticipated annualized cost of $127,630.”

The cost has been referred for consideration in the 2024 Tax Operating Budget. 

The targeted tax (operating and capital) budget approval date is currently set for February 15, 2024.

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