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KFL&A Board of Health votes on drug decriminalization, provides pandemic response update

The Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Board of Health heard from Integrated Care Hub (ICH) staff, voted in support of drug decriminalization, and provided a COVID-19 update at its meeting on Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2021.

Dr. Lindsay Bowthorpe highlighted current vaccination rates and presented an overview of infection rates across the province.

“I would like to highlight the fact that over 40 per cent of our 16 and over population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which is fantastic,” Bowthorpe said. “Further to that, we have reached an amazing milestone, we have now over 80 per cent of our KFL&A residents who are 60 years of age and older have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.”

KFL&A Board of Health members review the COVID-19 vaccination statistics for the region at their meeting on Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2021. Screen capture by Stefan Strangman.

Dr. Bowthorpe also stressed that, even though vaccination rates across the region are climbing, Public Health guidelines should still be strictly followed, as infection rates remain high. KFL&A is in Phase 2 of vaccination efforts, administering 84,898 first doses. COVID-19 infections have averaged 29.6 cases per 100,000 [people] in the past week, with 76 active cases total.

“We need to continue to adhere to public health measures. Because you have your first dose does not mean that you are able to go out and socialize with people. It takes a least two weeks for us to see that someone gains benefit from preventing COVID-19 infection after they have been vaccinated. “We have not, despite the shutdown and stay-at-home order, been able to get out of the orange zone for the past three weeks,” said Bowthorpe.

Dr. Lindsay Bowthorpe emphasized following health guidelines and staying at home for all but essential purposes at the KFL&A Board of Health meeting on April 28. Screen Capture by Stefan Strangman.

Integrated Care Hub workers present findings in support of decriminalization: ‘We’re committed to keeping people alive’

The board also heard a presentation on research gathered by the ICH from Ashley O’Brien, manager of the ICH, Justine McIsaac, consumption treatment co-ordinator, and Amanda Rogers, manager of harm reduction services at HIV/Aids Regional Services, which manages the facility. The research study results were also presented by Candace Christmas, a research consultant and PhD candidate in health policy and equity.

“Early incarceration was cited by many people as something that dramatically changed their lives,” said Christmas. “A middle aged man said, ‘I don’t think I would be in the situation I am in if this hadn’t – ‘this’ meaning if criminalization – always be a thing, and a 40-ish female said ‘The first time I ever went to jail was because of drugs. I was young and it messed me up.’”

The KFL&A Community Drug Strategy Advisory Committee issued a statement on Monday, Apr. 26, 2021 in support of decriminalization of drug users. The board then presented a motion to advocate for the decriminalization of drug use in Kingston, read by Dennis Doyle. The motion passed.

Members of the surrounding community had protested the care hub when it was first established at 661 Montreal Street last year. The ICH has since been taking steps to increase security patrols in the area to support the local community, as well as visitors to the hub.

O’Brein stressed that the work done by the care hub is continuing to save lives and decriminalization would help curb overdoses seen by the ICH.

“We had one young man come out of an overdose and he was crying for his mother. He said that he didn’t want to die, and thanked us for being here. Unfortunately, he had to use again to treat the pain that he was experiencing in that moment. But I just want you to know that we’re doing this. We’re committed to it. We’re committed to keeping people alive. It’s so hard to see, and people deserve an opportunity to see their mother again,” she said.

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