By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 30, 2020.
PUBLISHER AND ADVERTISING MANAGER,
Stunned. That’s how I, and many people I spoke to, felt on Saturday morning when I got the word that we have an illegal drug shoot-up tent in Lethbridge. This attention-seeking stunt will be shut down and people arrested, I thought, but no.
Whether you are in favour of the old ARCHES concept SCS, or opposed to it, the facts are the facts regarding the current situation in Lethbridge. It’s time they were laid out in black and white.
– The AHS-operated overdose prevention site (mobile truck) has seen an average of 40 clients per day from September 1-20 inclusive.
– The overdose prevention site can accommodate up to 200 clients per day.
– For context, in the months leading up to the closure of the SCS, ARCHES was averaging about 60 visits per day.
– Pre-investigation and prior to the departure of the executive director, the number quoted by ARCHES was approximately 20,000 visits per month on average or 650-plus per day. Post-audit, the numbers dropped drastically overnight.
– AHS staff at the OPS have managed four overdose reversals which required naloxone, and nine adverse events that required other supportive measures, since the unit began operations on Aug. 17.
– There have been no deaths at the OPS.
– There have been more than 160 referrals made to other support services in the area.
– Despite rising numbers in the province due to the pandemic, in September after the closure of ARCHES, the City of Lethbridge has experienced a 36 per cent decrease in opioid-related EMS responses and a modest decrease in drug and alcohol overdose deaths thus far. Exact data cannot be reported, given the small numbers and the risk of identifying a decedent.
Many, if not all, of the staff in the mobile unit were the best of the staff from SCS. They have the knowledge, experience and relationships with the clients to not have to start from square one. The stability of a consistent location is key to the success. Users of the tent have to guess where it will be; how many will die roaming the streets looking for the pop-up? I can’t help but feel they are being exploited for an agenda they aren’t even aware of.
Does the tent opening sound like it’s addressing the real drug issue or is there something else going on? It would seem that the new “mobile unit” option is handling the real traffic and, as a taxpayer, I’m OK with my money going to saving lives, referral programs and steps to help addicts get back on their feet. The new program has added the “other three legs” to the chair that the original ARCHES-led program did not have.
A GoFundMe page was started to support the illegal tent, and of the 90 people who donated as of Sunday night there were only 14 people from Lethbridge; the rest were from Vancouver, Toronto and a few from Edmonton. When we go to B.C. we have to worry about our lug nuts and paint on our vehicles. Now we stay here and have to worry about them funding illegal drug sites in our city? It would seem groups with outside interests are playing games with a Lethbridge experiment.
Enough. This is another black eye for the taxpaying residents of Lethbridge. Our provincial government stepped in and ended a system that was not working (criminal investigation still pending) and replaced it with a better system focused on rehabilitation. It’s time we let our elected officials and police force know that we have had enough. Call the mayor, call all council members, call the police chief, send us your letters and voice your concerns. Enough is enough.