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