Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

York Street drug consumption site not off the table

The possibility of a permanent supervised drug consumption facility opening at 446 York St. has not been ruled out.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed while on a visit to London Thursday the proposed site, across from Mission Services of London, is still under consideration by the provincial government.

“It is being considered along with the King Street site. I want to listen to Mayor Holder and understand the municipality’s perspective on the issue,” said Elliott. “We are working together to find the location that is going to be best in the long-term for the people who need help in the City of London and surrounding area.”

Elliott’s comments came two weeks after the province rejected the Middlesex London Health Unit’s funding application for 446 York Street. Local health officials were made aware of the decision through a letter in May.

It is believed community concerns were behind the Ford government’s funding refusal, as the city council-supported site has seen several groups, including developer Drewlo Holdings, challenge it at a provincial land-use appeal tribunal.

Two Ministry of Health and Long-term Care officials toured the site of the former music store on York Wednesday. Elliott was slated to meet with London Mayor Ed Holder Thursday afternoon to discuss the permanent facility where people can use drugs under medical supervision.

A date for the final decision on which site will become a permanent fixture has not been set.

“I know timeliness is a concern here and that people need to know which is in as the permanent site and start to make the arrangements accordingly,” said Elliott. “We will deal with it in a timely manner.”

The province has committed to funding at least one permanent supervised drug consumption site in the city and has also encouraged the health unit to apply for a mobile facility. The lease for the temporary location at 186 King Street expires at the end of next March and it has yet to be determined whether another lease can be signed there, Elliott noted.

Both the York Street and King Street locations would require significant upgrades and capital funding to house a permanent drug-use site.