By Letter to the Editor on July 30, 2020.
Dear Honourable Minister and Associate Minister Shandro and Luan:
Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy are disheartened and appalled by the announcement to defund the supervised consumption service (SCS) in Lethbridge. We are a collaborative group comprised of advocates, service providers, and people with lived/living experience (PWLLE). We are strongly urging you to consider the ramifications of this decision. Defunding the busiest SCS in Canada will undoubtedly lead to significant harm and a sharp increase in deaths. The existing services must remain intact, to ensure continuity of care for the average 800 visits/day that occur at the Lethbridge SCS.
We agree there are unanswered questions related to the use of public funds, but to say this decision is not driven by ideology is laughable. If a fire department mishandled its funding, the government would not close down the station. The overdose crisis in Alberta is a raging fire, and we need to maintain and bolster current harm reduction services. Replacing the current SCS in Lethbridge with a mobile site that has a two-person capacity is the equivalent of using a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. When similar situations occur concerning operations and spending, a new management team is inserted or a different organization is tasked with taking over. The approach being taken with Lethbridge is deliberate and will lead to individual and community harms at an alarming rate.
Overdoses have been on the rise across Alberta; despite not having access to current reporting, we hear from service providers and we see the rise in EMS calls for overdose. The dual crisis of a global pandemic and a drug-poisoning epidemic are putting people at compounded risk for overdose death. We know COVID-19 has pushed many at-risk of overdose into isolation and has made the current drug supply more volatile than ever before. Any disruption in existing services across this province is a death sentence to our most vulnerable Albertans.
We are asking you to:
– Maintain funding for Lethbridge SCS operations, to maintain current services provided;
– Develop a transition strategy that assures continuity of care for those accessing SCS in Lethbridge.
These are not complicated requests. We are simply asking that the people who have come to rely on services in Lethbridge do not become collateral damage. We will not comment on an organization’s financial decisions, because our interest is in supporting people who do not have a voice in decision-making process.
The clients of Lethbridge ARCHES have done nothing to deserve being cast out into the street during a dual health crisis.
Ashleigh Alder, RN B
Change the Face of Addiction
Jamie Dos Santo, RN BN
Rachael Edwards, RN BN
Friends of Medicare
Heather Hatch, RN BN
Mandy Karr, MN NP
Amie Kerber, RN BScN
Elizabeth Sentner, RN BN
Moms Stop the Harm
Corey Ranger, RN BN
Ashley Robertson, RN BN
Patty Wilson, MSC NP