Town backs motions to help combat opioid crisis

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Fort Frances is sending out a call across the province for help in dealing with the opioid crisis in the region.

Follwoing a deputation to council by the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) in late April, councillor Mandi Olson tabled a motion to direct town staff to send a letter requesting support for additional resources to address the opioid crisis, and furthermore to have those letters addressed to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA), the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and both the provincial and federal governments to advocate for the need for additional resources and support in dealing with the crisis in the region.

The motion notes that Fort Frances and surrounding communities are experiencing an opioid crisis that is more prevalent than in the remainder of the province, and that the region will require specific and unique strategies for dealing with the crisis. Additionally, it notes that the approach to resolving the issue should not be viewed as a single solution response, instead advocating for approaches that include diverse and inclusive methods to better encompass the various mental health, addictions and homelessness components that factor into the crisis.

Councillor Olson stressed that the motion is not putting the onus on the NWHU to solve the crisis, but is instead in response to the unit’s request for support.

“It was actually a request from [the NWHU] for support to move this forward,” Olson said.

“We thought what better of an opportunity to really put it right into the motion itself that we support them in moving this actionable piece forward.”

The NWHU recently completed a study examining the need for Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS) in Fort Frances and the surrounding community. According to a report summarizing their findings, Fort Frances would benefit from an SCS in the area that would allow for those with addictions to get access to clean drugs and health professionals that would ensure their safety when taking drugs, and be able to better help those with addictions access higher levels of care and support, up to and including sobriety programs.

Councillor Olson’s motion also expressed support for a regional coalition of public health organizations, community agencies and other to amplify regional concerns and investigate potential strategies and resources.

Olson also had a companion motion passed that expressed the town’s support in the NWHU establishing an opioid task force aimed at improving the quality of life for those living in and around the community, as well as the local recognition of National Opioid Awareness Day on September 21 of each year.

Also on Monday night’s agenda was a request from coun. Steven Maki for an update from the Make A Big Splash Spray Park committee, specifically on the status of the $100,000 investment contribution committed by Farmboy Real Estate in a letter to council dated April 19, 2022. Interim CAO Travis Rob said that the committee has received confirmation of $25,000 but is still waiting on further news.

“Today we’ve received $25,000, which the group has advertised on our social media page, from Farmboy.” said Rob.

“Recently we’ve been reaching out trying to get a feel for when we’d be anticipating the remainder of the funds, and so far we have not had any response back from Farmboy on that.”

The town also sought clarification on the municipal recreation master plan RFP that will be re-scoped and posted for new submissions. The move to re-submit the RFP follows feedback from entities that were interested in making a submission under the original RFP but found the scope to be too broad, according to the town’s recreation and culture manager Tyler Young.

“The RFP we currently have, the scope was very broad and some of the deliverables we were asking weren’t coherent,” Young explained.

“For example, I’ll give you a quick one, we had ‘review the town’s parks, recreation services and programs in order to promote healthy living.’ So are you asking ‘do our programs have the capacity to do it?’ Are you asking for a recommendation? It’s just a sentence fragment that doesn’t really resolve. As we posted the RFP we received a lot of questions from potential individuals and organizations wanting to submit proposals but it lacked clarity. In my experience with these plans, we need to make sure we get the ask right. If we ask for specific deliverables, we will get information with more value to the town.”

Young added that if the RFP were to go out again without some changes made, the town might get plenty of information from potential submissions, but it wouldn’t necessarily give the town the direction to proceed.

Other items on Monday night’s agenda included:

  • the town agreed to a $500 donation in sponsorship of the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society’s Mardi Gras Gala being held on Saturday, May 13, 2023 at the Emo-LaVallee Arena,
  • approved a request to proclaim May as “No Mow May” and encourage residents to not mow their lawns during the month of May in order to help support bees and other pollinators,
  • proclaimed June as Pride Month in the Town of Fort Frances and will coordinate a flag raising with Borderland Pride,
  • agreed to the recommendation that Borderland Pride be given complimentary use of the Memorial Sports Centre Auditorium for their Saturday, June 10 drag event in return for proceeds from the event going towards the splash pad fund, and,
  • approved a report awarding the detailed design for reconstruction of Third Street West from Central Avenue westerly to York Avenue to Hatch Ltd.