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Research Report Round-up: Preliminary assessment of first supervised consumption service in Sudbury, Ontario

Overview

All of Ontario is seeing an increase in drug overdoses, but the Northern communities, such as the City of Greater Sudbury, are experiencing an even larger increase. Governments are addressing this problem by approving and funding supervised consumption services, where people who use drugs can bring their own substances and use them under supervision. One such supervised-consumption site, The Spot, was approved in Sudbury but has not received provincial funding. Researchers conducted a study to assess the impact of The Spot on people who use drugs in Sudbury and identify improvements for this service. The results suggest the site offers many benefits to the community and can reduce the risks associated with drug use, including reducing fatal overdoses.

 

Title and link to report: Preliminary Assessment of Sudbury Ontario’s First Supervised Consumption Service (“The Spot”): Final Report

Author(s): Farihah Ali, Cayley Russell, Ashima Kaura, Rachael Pfeil, Peter Leslie, Shaun Hopkins, Leslie Buckley, Samantha Wells

Year and location: Sudbury, Ontario, December 2022

Populations addressed: People who use drugs

Contact: Farihah Ali, farihah.ontcrism@gmail.com

 

What this report is about

Researchers conducted a study to assess the impact of a supervised consumption service called The Spot, in Sudbury, Ontario. Northern Ontario communities, such as the City of Greater Sudbury, have been experiencing a large increase in drug overdoses. In this region, opioid-related deaths are double the provincial average. Provincial governments are addressing this problem by funding supervised consumption services, where people who use drugs can bring their own substances and use them under supervision.

In 2022, the Government of Canada approved The Spot, which was built in a small trailer. Although the site did not receive provincial funding, it received $1.1 million for one year of funding from Sudbury city council in 2022. To receive sustainable government funding, The Spot will need to prove it meets federal and provincial requirements on an ongoing basis.

The report examined the impact of The Spot on people who use drugs in the City of Sudbury and possible service improvements.

The research methods

This assessment involved a brief five-minute survey to collect demographic and substance use profiles of 20 individuals who used the consumption room. There were also one-on-one interviews with nine site staff and 20 clients to explore their perceptions of the site and its impact on drug use patterns and associated harms. The researchers also combined data on use of the site and member profiles.

Participant responses

The data showed that use of the consumption services grew consistently over the six-month study period. There were 256 unique clients who visited the site and 706 total consumptions. Twenty-four of these were peer-to-peer consumptions, meaning that someone accompanied the person into the consumption room. The most commonly injected drug was fentanyl with 452 consumptions.

Staff attended to nine overdoses, two of which required naloxone. The site also distributed various harm-reduction supplies to people who use drugs, including syringes, alcohol swabs and sterile water.

The interview responses included common comments:

Recommendations for improving the site

Participants made several suggestions to improve the use of the site’s services and its sustainability:

How this report can be used

This report provides insights about the perspectives of people who use drugs using a supervised consumption services site in Sudbury and the staff who work there. These findings may be of use to policy-makers and researchers seeking to develop these types of services in other communities.

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