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Quebec is boosting funding for supervised consumption sites in Montreal in an effort to prevent overdoses as the city grapples with homelessness and a rise in suspected drug-related deaths.

The province is dedicating an additional $1.5-million for services targeted to drug users, including $1.2-million that will go to four organizations in Montreal’s downtown, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Village neighbourhoods.

Lionel Carmant, Quebec junior health minister, said the funding is necessary, but he acknowledged that more needs to be done to support unhoused people and those with substance abuse issues.

“Magic-wand solutions don’t exist,” he told reporters Friday. “Homelessness is a chronic problem,” and addressing it, he added, “is a long-term process.”

Supervised consumption sites are places where people can bring their own drugs to use in the presence of trained staff.

Mr. Carmant made the funding announcement alongside representatives from Spectre de rue, a non-profit that runs a supervised consumption site in the Village neighbourhood, which became the focus of Montreal’s homelessness and drug abuse issues earlier this summer when the city launched an action plan to address residents’ concerns about violence in the area.

The city’s plan includes a new, two-person intervention team that will work to direct vulnerable people to appropriate resources.

Mr. Carmant said there has been a rise in homelessness in Montreal in recent years, along with an increase in “less-clean” drugs.

In Montreal between April, 2022, and March, 2023, there was a roughly 28-per-cent rise in suspected drug-related deaths – from 134 to 172 – compared with the same period the year before, the city’s public-health authority said. Officials recorded an average of 49 emergency or overdose interventions per month at supervised consumption sites over the same 12 months – a 53 per cent increase from a year earlier and a 427 per cent increase compared with two years before.

Quebec plans to expand drug-use supervision programs, with another $252,000 going to Montreal public health to launch more supervised consumption sites. Mr. Carmant said the province also plans to create more supervised housing units to better support people experiencing homelessness.

On Friday, Spectre de rue director Annie Aubertin praised the funding announcement, saying the new money will help the organization extend its operating hours after it had previously reduced them. But she also urged the government to go further, pointing to additional needs in mental health and housing services.

“It’s human beings we’re looking at. It’s people, it’s not a problem,” she stated, acknowledging the challenge of cohabitation in the city’s Village neighbourhood among residents, business owners and people who use drugs. “We have to work hard to ensure that everyone has a place on this planet, including people who are in a situation of dependence.”

Ms. Aubertin said the decriminalization of drug use would further help to reduce stigma. In January, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit substances after the federal government granted a three-year exemption from criminal penalties.

Mr. Carmant said Quebec is not pursuing such a policy change.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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