January 20th, 2021

Harm reduction still an effective strategy

By Letter to the Editor on July 22, 2020.

Like myself, I suspect many citizens of Lethbridge were alarmed by the finding of misappropriated funds within ARCHES, and the subsequent withdrawal of provincial funding to their supervised consumption site (SCS). As an RN who has worked for a number of years in harm reduction, I am reeling for our clients and their families in terms of how this will impact them.

One thing is clear – the inappropriate management of funds within one agency does not refute decades of empirical research behind the effectiveness of harm-reduction interventions in mitigating drug-related health and social issues. This financial audit was not intended to evaluate the effectiveness of harm-reduction services provided to people who use drugs. To conflate findings of financial mismanagement with lack of effectiveness in harm reduction would only further exacerbate drug-related health issues.

In Alberta, we are seeing the highest number of overdoses due to COVID-19 impacting the flow of drug supply and drug-using patterns (e.g. using in isolation instead of using with others). Finally, the responsibility of funding mismanagement sits solely with the unnamed senior executive, ARCHES’ frontline and management staff deserve our compassion and understanding as they continue to provide services in these challenging times.

I am heartened to see that the provincial government has directed AHS to set up a mobile SCS to ensure continuity of services to clients, and look forward to seeing a permanent re-installation of harm-reduction services.

Carina Zhu, RN MPH

Instructor, University of Lethbridge

Share this story:

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John P Nightingale

A well framed opinion much needed in this divisive issue.

Citi Zen

After two or so years of “harm reduction” by Arches, where are we? I’m seeing a marked increase in the use of illicit drugs, residential crime, and homelessness in Lethbridge. This model clearly does not work. Stop playing God, and let the Almighty look after the addicts.


Yes, harm reduction is a growth industry, as proven by success of the growth of the DTES Vancouver since 2003. Even in Lethbridge it has grown from 300 clients to well over 1500 clients in 3 years. As to the success of treating clients, their is a search being mounted in Lethbridge to find one person that has successfully completed rehabilitation.


once again, harm reduction is not a problem. it is the approaches taken to harm reduction that either are effective or are not. seems vancouver, lethbridge and other cdn locales have spent an awful lot of time and money trying to invent the wheel on this, rather than follow and tweak and build upon an already useful model long enough in use in portugal.
citi zen – if the almighty existed and existed to improve the lot of humanity, it is my best guess he would have filled your mouth with an endless ball of cotton long ago.


‘Endless ball of cotton …’ – now that’s something to believe in! Thanks for the image, biff 🙂

Citi Zen

Or must have given you the ball of cotton for a brain.

Seth Anthony

Harm reduction that has the 4 pillars can be a good thing, and only if the 4 pillars are adhered to. Doing it correctly by following the guidelines, seems to be much easier said than done. In Lethbridge, we’ve only had 1 pillar and that was filled with cracks.

More treatment facilities as well as the drug court in Lethbridge is a step in the right direction.

Note- From what I understand, the Lethbridge drug court will have the ability to order an addict into treatment under certain circumstances.