Newsletter: Who’s making robocalls about the proposed supervised consumption site?

You’re reading the February 9, 2021 edition of the News and Updates email from Peterborough Currents. To receive these emails straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Hello, and welcome to the News and Updates email from Peterborough Currents. We send this email out every other Tuesday morning. This week’s issue has a lot of local news for you!

First, I’ve got a story about the Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) site that is proposed for 220 Simcoe Street. An automated phone survey has been circulating in Peterborough regarding the site, and I’m not sure who is behind it. 

The CTS site, if approved, will provide a safe and hygienic location where people can use pre-obtained drugs without the fear of dying from an overdose. It’s expected between 15 and 20 people would use the site each day. If you’re curious how the site would work, Peterborough’s medical officer of health Rosana Salvaterra lays it out in this video.

Who’s making robocalls about the supervised consumption site?

Recently, some Peterborough residents — including  a few readers of Peterborough Currents — have reported that they’ve received automated phone surveys asking their opinion of the Consumption and Treatment Services site that is proposed for 220 Simcoe Street (the old Greyhound bus station).

I haven’t received one of these calls. But I’ve spoken with two people who have.

Margaret Slavin and Mary Gordon both feel that the questions they were posed over the phone were intentionally phrased to dampen support for the CTS site currently under consideration. (Slavin and Gordon are supportive of the proposed site.)

For example, they were asked whether they preferred a consumption site on its own or a consumption site with addiction treatment services. Slavin and Gordon understand that most people would select the second option. They worry this might undermine the efforts underway with the current CTS application because the proposed site is not a full treatment centre, even though some treatment services will be offered at the site if it is approved.

“When people say treatment, what that usually conjures up in people’s mind is a bed in a residential facility,” says Donna Rogers, the executive director of Fourcast, a local addiction treatment provider that recently became the lead applicant on the CTS proposal. But residential treatment is often a short interlude in most people’s recovery, she says. And not everyone needs it. “Many people make changes to substance use without ever going to a residential detox bed,” she told Global News last fall.

“We don’t have residential treatment services in Peterborough,” Rogers says. “However, it doesn’t mean that the people of Peterborough are disadvantaged in terms of access to those kinds of services.”

That’s because residential treatment services have a province-wide intake system, which means everyone in the province has equal access to each facility through a waitlist. “So even if we had residential options in Peterborough, it would likely be full of people who aren’t from Peterborough,” Rogers says.

The proposed CTS facility would not be a treatment centre. Its primary service would be to offer a safe and hygienic place to use drugs under the supervision of staff who can intervene in the event of an overdose — which would quite probably mean saving a life.

But the site would still offer some treatment options in the form of referrals to the services that already exist in the Peterborough community. This referral model is permitted under the provincial government’s current CTS program requirements.

According to Rogers, the site will have “inextricable links to the treatment system just by virtue of the workforce that’s going to be there.”

Slavin wishes the phone survey had allowed her to express support for the proposed site at 220 Simcoe Street and additional treatment services in the community. Without that option, she felt she had to choose between advocating for more treatment options and advocating for the proposed CTS site.

In a guest column in the Peterborough Examiner, Slavin called the questions “the most biased I have ever encountered.”

So … who’s behind these phone surveys? I haven’t been able to find out.

While community consultation is a requirement for CTS site applications, consultations were carried out by the team behind the proposal last year, and the results were submitted along with their application. Rogers says she doesn’t know anything about the robocalls.

The provincial Ministry of Health (MOH) is now reviewing Peterborough’s application. But they are not conducting any opinion research regarding a CTS in Peterborough, and they haven’t hired a third party to do research either, according to statements by MOH spokespeople emailed to Peterborough Currents last week.

I also reached out to MPP Dave Smith. Smith said that his own household had received one of the phone calls. But when asked if he knew who was behind the surveys, he wrote, “I’m afraid that I am not able to help you with this one.”

“I am on record stating multiple times that I am supportive of a treatment based CTS,” Smith wrote. “The application is being evaluated by experts at the Ministry and I will defer to their expert medical opinion.”

Another federal housing announcement

Parkview Homes’ 27-unit lowrise development on Whitefield Drive is nearing completion. (Photo via Parkview’s apartment listing.)

On Friday, the federal government announced an $8.5 million loan it made through the CMHC to Parkview Homes to construct a 27-unit apartment building in the west end of the city. The loan comes through the National Housing Strategy’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFI).

The RCFI has a complex set of requirements that developers have to meet regarding accessibility, emissions and affordability. In a press release, Maryam Monsef’s office said the project offered “deep affordability.” But the apartments don’t seem that much cheaper than the current going rate.

Noor Ibrahim of Global Peterborough reports that one-bedroom apartments in the development will average $1,600 per month, while three-bedroom units will average $2,900.

Peterborough Currents is tracking the city’s progress on affordable housing. We’re counting all of the new apartment units in Peterborough that receive public funding or financing and have affordability requirements. So far, we’ve identified 266 new units that have been occupied or announced since summer 2019.

New stories on the Peterborough Currents website

  • Aiming to decrease the amount of salt that runs off into the Otonabee River, the City of Peterborough is halfway through a retrofit of its snowplows with technology that uses salt more efficiently. Here’s Ayesha Barmania’s story about the initiative.
  • After covering it briefly in a newsletter two weeks ago, I dove a bit deeper into the virtual eviction hearings at the Landlord and Tenant BoardRead the story here.

Other news

  • The second wave of coronavirus infections in Peterborough appears to be subsiding, according to Peterborough Public Health’s Local Covid Tracker. There are currently 18 known active cases in the health unit’s region.
  • The Peterborough Transit fare increase has taken effect, KawarthaNOW reports. A bus ride now costs $2.75, up from $2.50.
  • An opening date for Peterborough’s new 24/7 overflow shelter will be announced in the next couple of weeks, the Peterborough Examiner reports. Meanwhile, many people experiencing homelessness continue to have limited options for indoor space where they can spend their time this winter. The new 24/7 shelter was previously expected to open on January 4.
  • The City of Peterborough is seeking public feedback on the temporary changes made to downtown public space last year. The City is reviewing the experience from last year in case similar measures are needed this coming summer. Take the survey here.
  • Ontario Morning broadcast a panel discussion yesterday featuring three elected officials in Ontario who are the first Black representatives to hold their title. Peterborough’s Coun. Kemi Akapo participated. You can listen here.

Photo of the week

I photographed the Parkhill Street Bridge through some trees on February 5, 2021. I was drawn to it because I felt the bridge’s architecture somehow mimicked the day’s frosty weather. Have you got a picture of Peterborough you’d like to share? Get in touch by replying to this email.

That’s it for this week’s newsletter. Thanks so much for reading!

Take care and stay safe.

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