WECHU board supports 'compromise' allowing SafePoint to open at previously approved location
The Windsor-Essex Board of Health will move ahead with a compromise that will allow the SafePoint consumption and treatment site (CTS) to open at its previously approved location as soon as possible.
Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino withdrew a motion Monday requesting council to rescind its support of 101 Wyandotte St. E. as the location for the CTS. Instead, council said the motion would not be heard after a “compromise” as reached with health officials in the region. During a Windsor-Essex County Health Unit board meeting Friday, new details were shared on what exactly the compromise will look like.
As part of the compromise, the CTS will open at 101 Wyandotte St. E. on its expected timeline of the end of March assuming federal funding comes through on time. Retrofitting and renovation upgrades are already underway — which the board of health said needs to be completed before federal funding is approved.
The health unit’s lease to occupy the building ends in April 2025. The board said if the lease can not be ended early, the landlord which owns the building would be notified of SafePoint’s move by Nov. 2024.
Until then, Agostino will lead a committee tasked with finding a new location for the CTS. Board members appointed him as head of the committee during Friday’s meeting.
“They were folks that came forward recently who never came forward before. There were some voices there that might not have had a voice in the original consultation,” WECHU CEO Dr. Ken Blanchette said following Friday’s board meeting, adding “federal application partners” have reached out to schedule the site visit.
“We’re fairly close to that, within weeks to a month away."
During Friday’s board meeting, Agostino was appointed as head of the committee to find a new site for the CTS after it opens on Wyandotte Street East near the Canadian entry point of the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.
Blanchette pointed to statistics, which shows an “urgent need” for the CTS to open as soon as possible. According to WECHU’s current projections, up to 111 people in Windsor-Essex could die of opioid-related overdoses by the end of 2023, but that number would hover around 70 if the CTS opens within the next month.
WECHU’s CEO also shared details of the floor plan for the site, describing it as “unidirectional” with open sightlines throughout the entire space.
“It allows for what's really important for on-site primary care. So, there'll be providing care for things like foot care, wound care and vaccinations. It also allows for social service providers to be there for income and food supports…and an onsite physician during certain operational hours to provide treatment,” said Blanchette, adding clients will also have access to referrals for addiction treatment services.
The city has spent $775,000 on the construction of SafePoint inside 101 Wyandotte St. E. Health officials said federal funding is expected to come through in March, allowing SafePoint to operate until July.
“And then provincial funding would kick in. So all those contingencies have been in place and already approved,” said Blanchette.
Agostino told CTV News Windsor he would like to start working on finding a location for SafePoint’s new home “as soon as possible.” When asked who will be on the site selection committee and when it will be formed, Agostino said it’s “not certain but rest assured everyone will have a voice.”
“Everyone is scared and that's what we all have in common,” Agostino told his fellow board members during Friday’s meeting.
“The agreement, the negotiation and the compromise we've come together on does a lot to help mitigate those fears for everyone.”
As for WECHU Board Chair and Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante, he said the process of finding a new site will be “similar to the process that was undertaken” for 101 Wyandotte St. E.
“The intent is to be fully transparent…and would include a consultation process with the surrounding residents and business owners,” said Costante.
In January 2022, Windsor City Council narrowly approved 101 Wyandotte St. E. as the site of SafePoint in a 6-5 vote. At the time, Rino Bortolin and Chris Holt — who represented Ward 3 and 4, respectively — voted in support of the location.
They have since been replaced by Agostino in Ward 3 and Mark McKenzie in Ward 4. Prior to Monday’s announcement of a compromise being reached, Agostino said council should reconsider if 101 Wyandotte St. E. is the most appropriate location for SafePoint while McKenzie said he does not support a CTS whatsoever.
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