Ontario appoints supervisor, starts new review of Riverdale consumption site


TORONTO — Ontario’s Ministry of Health is appointing a supervisor for a Toronto consumption and treatment services site that has been the focus of increased scrutiny after a bystander was shot and killed nearby.

The province says Jill Campbell, a former executive at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, will have full decision-making authority on any improvements to the operations and safety at the site that are recommended after a review is completed.

Karolina Huebner-Makurat, a 44-year-old mother of two, was killed by a stray bullet in the summer near a consumption site at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Toronto’s east end following a physical altercation between three men.

Some residents raised safety concerns around the site and Health Minister Sylvia Jones launched a “critical incident review,” which a spokesperson says involves consulting with public health, reviewing complaints against the site and developing a new incident reporting template.

The government says a broader Ministry of Health review of all 16 other sites is ongoing, but it has now also tasked the Unity Health Toronto hospital network with conducting what it calls a comprehensive, third-party review of the Riverdale site.

The deputy minister of health and Chief Medical Officer of Health write in a joint letter to residents of the area that the review will include “the operations of the site and the suitability CTS operations within community health centres.” 

“Recommendations from this work will inform next steps for CTS within the Leslieville community and the ministry’s CTS funding program requirements,” Catherine Zahn and Kieran Moore write.

Michael Tibollo, the associate minister of mental health and addictions, said earlier this month that the province is not looking at shutting down any consumption and treatment sites. He said the province is looking at ideas such as adding extra security to the sites and more health-care workers, and is also examining the hours they operate.

Opioid deaths began to rise in Ontario in 2015 when illicit fentanyl made its way to the province. Those deaths surged during the pandemic.

In 2021, the mortality rate for opioid toxicity hit its peak of 19.3 deaths per 100,000 people. That mortality rate has dropped in the first quarter of 2023 to 17.5 deaths per 100,000 people. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 12, 2023.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press


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