Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention (CDIP)
May 18, 2023
SafePoint Site Launch
On April 14th of 2023, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) received approval from Health Canada to operate the SafePoint Urgent Public Health Need Site at 101 Wyandotte Street East. In preparation for the launch, community agencies, elected officials, neighbourhood businesses, peer groups, potential clients, media, and other stakeholders were invited to private tours of the facility to learn more about the services offered. In total, 17 private tours and 2 public tours were facilitated during the period of April 3rd to April 21st.
A media event was held on-site at SafePoint on April 19th, where the local media was briefed on the upcoming launch of SafePoint, the new partnership with the operational lead agency, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH), and offered a tour of the site. From April 17th to May 1st, there were 32 news stories related to SafePoint. This media engagement was also leveraged as an opportunity to promote open houses later that week which provided members of the public, area businesses, and other stakeholders an opportunity to visit the site. The public open houses were offered on Thursday, April 20th and Friday, April 21st, with an estimated 400 community members touring the site over the course of the two-day period.
Through these tours hosted in April, participants were given the opportunity to share their feedback and express concerns with the staff. Any concerns that were expressed related to access, site design, safety, client services, and community outreach, were documented and presented to the SafePoint Advisory Committee as part of their ongoing dialogue to iteratively improve operations. The general response from residents, community agencies, and business owners who had the opportunity to visit SafePoint for a tour was positive and supportive.
SafePoint officially opened to serve clients 7 days per week starting on Wednesday, April 26th during the operating hours of 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. The initial objectives of SafePoint during the first months of operations include:
- Developing relationships with service providers of potential clients as a source of referrals;
- Refining processes, policies, and procedures;
- Building trust with people use substances or could access SafePoint services;
- Establishing positive relationships with neighbourhood businesses;
- Providing ongoing opportunities for the public to participate in open houses outside of operating hours.
Current as of May 10, there have been 24 client visits in the first 14 days of operation, which aligns with expectations for the first few months of operation relative to the population density of the area where the site is located. The current client volume provides an opportunity for staff to build connections with clients and continue to streamline processes to provide the best quality care.
Early indications from the HDGH team operating SafePoint demonstrate that the service is already having a positive impact on clients that access SafePoint services, as highlighted through the following narratives:
Anonymous Client #1
Client had recently been released from incarceration, which indicates an increased susceptibility to overdose. Client was able to consume their substance under the supervision of Registered Practical Nurses and experienced no adverse events. Client expressed interest in social services and was provided with support in completing their application to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Anonymous Client #2
Client visited SafePoint to consume a substance. The client was able to receive assistance in creating an email account and filling out a housing application so that they would have a more stable place to live. The client is now considering treatment options once their housing needs are met.
Other sites that were consulted throughout this process have indicated that the main source of referrals for clients came through word of mouth. As the number of clients accessing the service grows and trust is built through positive experiences, it is anticipated that client volumes will increase over the next few months. Establishing pathways for community agencies to refer their clients to SafePoint, availability of on-site wrap-around services, and connections to social services will also serve to further incentivize client visits to SafePoint.
Surrounding businesses will continue to be engaged by SafePoint staff and advisory committee to mitigate any security concerns that may emerge. Proactive efforts have already been taken to develop relationships with neighbourhood businesses to work collaboratively to mitigate the use of their facilities for drug consumption and improperly discarded needles, as well as navigating people who use substances to access SafePoint where appropriate. These collective efforts will ensure clients receive the services they need and can access other services to promote their well-being, while ensuring that SafePoint is successfully integrated into the surrounding community. A comprehensive evaluation of SafePoint is underway to measure its impact on the surrounding community and efficacy in achieving its goals for people who use its services.