By Letter to the Editor on February 14, 2020.
There is a great deal of controversy about the supervised consumption site (Arches), and I am going to bring some facts to the discussion, and then pose some questions for the civic and provincial officials contemplating shutting down the facility.
From the Alberta government “Alberta Opiod Response Surveillance Report” (they only have documents up to the end of March 2019, readers can access the report online, and it is lengthy and detailed):
1. Lethbridge has the highest rate, per capita, of site visits in Alberta.
2. Lethbridge has the highest rate, per capita, of EMS responses to opioid overdoses in Alberta. This results in four per cent of Chinook Regional Hospital ER visits.
3. The most intense activity for Lethbridge in terms of site visits, overdose deaths and EMS responses was the summer of 2018. After that time period this type of activity has levelled off or decreased somewhat.
4. There are multiple supervised consumption sites in Calgary and Edmonton and other sites in Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Red Deer. Calgary and Edmonton have had more overdose deaths than Lethbridge, but have higher populations.
5. Lethbridge has identified 440 (summer 2018 to March 2019) “unique clients,” meaning specific individuals using the site.
6. There were nine overdose deaths in Lethbridge area in the first three months of 2019, but no statistics are available yet for the rest of 2019.
1. Why does Lethbridge have a higher per-capita rate for overdose deaths, “unique clients” and site visits? It is not because the site is open and “attracting” drug users, because those users could travel to the other sites in five other cities.
2. If the site is shut down, what will happen to the 440 “unique clients”?
3. Some people want the site shut down because they claim it is hurting business. Are there 440 crimes committed in Lethbridge every week to support drug users’ habits? Two weeks ago a Lethbridge Herald story quoted a business leader saying that approximately 75 per cent of Lethbridge business owners surveyed said they expect to expand their business in 2020, and that the unemployment rate in Lethbridge for December was four per cent.
Comparison information from the Globe & Mail, Jan. 27:
Brantford, Ont., with the same population of 100,000, had 35 overdose deaths in 2019, and four deaths in one day in January. Brantford does not have a supervised consumption site.