By Lethbridge Herald on October 12, 2021.
“I am not in favour of another supervised consumption site. This was done with limited consultation and communication and had a serious impact on the health and wellness of Lethbridge citizens and businesses. Services such as addiction counselling, health and wellness, housing, food and clothing to reduce addictions, crime and homelessness are more effective according to the Manhattan Institute’s assessment of 64 communities across the US. We can learn from these studies, and I propose a revitalized Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy with strong leadership dedicated to change working with our public safety providers to have a broader approach to these social and in some cases criminal problems.”
“Currently, Lethbridge is one giant un-supervised drug consumption site, and this is not working well. As one part of a comprehensive addiction mitigation strategy a supervised drug consumption site will help to limit the spread of disease, reduce overdoses and toxic poisonings, and provide an on-ramp to an addiction treatment program. The logical place to put such a facility is inside the Lethbridge Shelter as this is where the need is greatest. Needles should be provided but should not be allowed to leave the facility.”
“As long as a permanent, but limited scope, supervised consumption site is joined by the other three pillars of drug strategy, which are Prevention, Enforcement and Treatment, I would support that, yes. A potential location, if different from the current, would require proper community consultation and planning. In most any place there will be an effect on neighbouring properties. Yet turning a blind eye to the issue is not an answer either. I’m opposed to free needle distribution. I understand the premise behind it (to help prevent the spread of disease by a used needle, then being a drain on the healthcare system) but where used needles end up, often where children play, is just not an acceptable risk for me, especially if there’s an SCS. I wholeheartedly disagree with the premise of making illicit drug use more convenient for the user.”
“Harm reduction has its place in dealing with addiction but we also lack crucial wrap around supports like intox, detox and supportive housing. Free needle distribution is part of the harm reduction model. Partnerships with stakeholders in the city and advocating with all levels of government is key in solving the issues we have when it comes to deciding on a permanent site for an SCS.”
“A supervised consumption site is a health facility. For one to be set up in a community, Health Canada must grant exemption to the Supervised Consumption Site under section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Operating money for such a site is generally provided by the provincial government through Alberta Health. The site may either be operated directly by Alberta Health Services or the province may choose to fund an outside provider. Therefore, for a permanent facility to be set up in Lethbridge, it must have both national and provincial approval and would be set up when the two other orders of government recognize there is a definite health need in Lethbridge. City Council would only become involved if a zoning change was needed. Zoning decisions require a public hearing. If any member of City Council states a decision related to a public hearing BEFORE the public hearing, their objectivity can be questioned and they would not be permitted to participate in the public hearing. Free needle distribution is also done as part of public health for reasons of harm reduction and to protect all members of the public from blood-borne disease. Decisions are also made by health personnel.”
“I’m definitely in favour of a permanent facility for Supervised Consumption but ONLY if it is offered as one pillar of the four that makes up a solid/proven plan to move drug users beyond their current situation. I’m totally opposed to any form of needle distribution.”
“Lethbridge is in the midst of a second epidemic that has been ongoing now for more than five years: the epidemic of drug addiction. While some candidates may advocate for stricter legal penalties for drug use, the facts are City Council is unable to affect how the justice system operates in our community. This means that City Councils must be innovative in how we deal with drug addiction in our community, to ensure we are operating within our mandate. I do support all Four Pillars of Addictions Treatment, which include: Harm reduction/Supervised Consumption, Safe Supportive Housing, Treatment, and Enforcement. Unfortunately, previous efforts in our City relied heavily on just one or two of these pillars (consumption and enforcement) and were poorly managed by external contractors. I believe that any program supported by City Council should have key performance indicators, and be publicly audited for efficacy and costs in order to receive City support. I think it is fair to the taxpayers to share information openly and honestly about whether or not programs are working, and how we move people from addiction to treatment and onto their sober lives. Previous attempts have been inadequate to address the issues in the City. We have to recognize that addiction and mental health are intrinsically linked, and are a social problem rather than a criminal one. If we can work diligently on the underlying issues like poverty and mental health in our community, we will see improvements in the community as a whole.”
“No, I am not in favour of a permanent facility for supervised drug consumption. The original SCS proved to be a disaster and caused a lot of grief for the local business community. I still struggle with the concept. With respect to a free needle distribution program, I’m not sure this is much better. Perhaps it could be done on some sort of an ‘exchange’ basis. Ultimately, I feel this entire issue can be better managed through a proven detox, treatment and recovery program.”
“Harm reduction measures, like supervised consumption sites, should be working in tandem with solutions like transitional housing and addictions treatment; it is designed to stop people from dying while communities work toward more sustainable long-term goals. The objective should be a solution to the drug crisis, but I advocate for stopping deaths as we work toward it. I support supervised consumption in principle, but locations where those services are delivered would be a discussion at the point that potential sites are proposed. I don’t believe the city should unilaterally decide where these services are installed without extensive community conversation and consultation. It is only one piece of the puzzle. I am committed to getting all stakeholders together at professionally moderated sessions to look for solutions; experts from public health, transitional housing, mental health, addictions, the business sector, cultural stakeholders, the invested public, harm reduction, and police. Perhaps with our amazing community at the table, we can be the municipality to realize pragmatic and realistic solutions, tempered with a progressive and visionary ethos. I don’t have the answers, but together as a community we can find them. Needle exchange programs seem to make more sense to me than needle distribution, but I would defer to expert health opinion.”
“I am not in favour of a permanent Supervised Consumption Site as Lethbridge has already witnessed the negative effects that such a site has on citizenry in general and on businesses in particular. One can feel sympathetic to drug users as they most likely find themselves in the position they are through no fault of their own; but, a centralized location where drugs can be consumed seems to create a ‘build it and they will come’ situation and does nothing to facilitate a change in behaviour. The sad reality is that the drug problem may be one that doesn’t have a solution when the folks facing the problem are unable (and sometimes unwilling) to take steps to access programs available to them that might assist them in getting off the vicious cycle they find themselves in. We must also bear in mind that the paramedics that have to respond to drug overdoses are undoubtedly negatively affected by having to administer naloxone to the same drug addict whose life they may have saved just a few days earlier. My belief is that, although City Council got caught up in this issue, they did so when the clear jurisdiction to address the problem rested with the Provincial and Federal Governments. Having said that, I certainly am in favour of the City facilitating access to treatment opportunities but not in taking a leading role in those efforts.”
“Currently Lethbridge has a ‘supervised drug consumption facility’ albeit, a mobile unit situated adjacent to the homeless shelter along Stafford Drive. This facility is mandated and operated by Alberta Health Services. According to protocol, once a supervised drug consumption facility is opened, it stays, that is the position (of) Alberta Health Services. Am I in favour of a permanent supervised drug consumption facility? The answer is a straight up ‘NO!’. My position has always been that such facilities foster ‘enabling’ for continued drug consumption and experimenting. There are too many horrific stories about ARCHES – that we experienced here in Lethbridge. YES, I was involved in researching the activities and effectiveness of the ARCHES. What I discovered, was not pretty, or encouraging. I also participated in rallies and protests decrying the ARCHES facility. It came as no surprise to me when the Province finally shuttered the ARCHES facility. Some would argue that ARCHES provided much needed ‘harm reduction’ to those wanting to experiment with drug usage and those addicted. I will not disagree with that, on the other hand, there were some who used the facility and who, on several occasions in one day, had naloxone administered to revive them. Is that ‘harm reduction’ or the very definition of enabling? If we do not learn from history, then history will repeat itself, and I am sure all of our community, residential and business, do not want to go through that experience again. I am opposed to indiscriminate free needle distribution.”
“The existence of the SCS is a deeply polarizing subject within our city. I take my direction from residents and business owners who have overwhelmingly expressed their dissatisfaction with the previous location and operation at the SCS. A large scale SCS can’t be the best permanent solution. We attracted drug users to our city and with them came more crime and an unfair focus on a single social challenge that dominated and overshadowed many positives about our city. The business community justifiably felt neglected and passed over by council and the mayor. This neglect was a costly mistake. Furthermore, NO MOTHER should ever have to take her young child to emergency for blood tests due to being poked by a dirty, used needle at a playground. This is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, the drug problem will continue for some time. There needs to be compassion for addicts and we need to preserve life when possible and rehabilitate when possible. Whatever solutions we pursue for the time being should be located as close to the shelter/soup kitchen as possible in order to provide centralized care. For now, this will likely include some type of extremely modest clean needle exchange. At the end of the day, we as a community cannot succumb to the idea that the battle is completely lost. I and WE need to believe that we can unite and really change the outcomes for these vulnerable residents and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
“Through its rushed and poorly implemented introduction the supervised consumption site has become a sore spot for many within the community. What should have just been one aspect of a program where people could go to service their addiction, be placed into supportive housing which could get them into addictions treatment became just about keeping people in addiction.
Since the SCS is a provincial matter, it is not going anywhere so we are going to have to find ways to cope with it. As such I would support a permanent location for the SCS as long as it is a component of a bigger program that gets people housed and into treatment. The cycle needs to be broken not only for the individual afflicted, but their families and the community as a whole.
I would keep it at the homeless shelter, since many of the clientele are already there and moving it would just inflict the chaos on to someone else. Too often the problem is that decisions on the location of the SCS, housing, and treatment centres are being forced into very short timelines where appropriate consultation is not happening. This is why a coordinated plan, that identifies possible locations and allows for long-term problem solving, needs to be developed. I understand that free needle distribution aims to reduce disease transmission but in my job I have cleaned too many needles out of playgrounds and other locations to support it.”
“I am not in favour of a permanent facility for drug consumption. I am totally in favour of reaching out and helping these people into recovery. The SCS was a good start to helping in the community, but it was only a start and didn’t go far enough or go in the right direction. Having been sober and in recovery for 17 years, what I have learned is that we must not enable. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. What is needed are more efficient addiction recovery centers and dry beds and professionals in the medical field to assist at these facilities.”
“The previous SCS was not properly managed. However, when properly operated, and supported with prevention, treatment, and surrounding services, these facilities can save and change lives. I would support a permanent SCS provided it was based on a medical model of care and treatment, professionally staffed, integrated with support services, and extensive engagement was undertaken with our community. I’m committed to a strategy involving all sectors and service providers in engagement, land use development, and planning. The Community Wellness & Safety Strategy has started some of this work, but I see gaps in employment skills, workforce development, and open communication with our community (more at jennschmidtrempel.ca). Dealing with the opioid crisis means all of us – residents, businesses, healthcare providers, and governments – working together and holding each other accountable. A properly managed and operated SCS must be accessible. Specifying a location, in the absence of data, planning, and community conversation is irresponsible. Ultimately, a Good Neighbour Plan must be submitted with any land rezoning or permitting applications. Applicants must also provide communication from proximate businesses and residents, proof of engagement sessions, meeting schedules, and other communications with area neighbours. Intravenous drug use exists here. We can’t ignore it. Providing needles is an important component of a comprehensive strategy to combat the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases. It also reduces long-term healthcare costs. I would support a needle exchange program where users are given a clean needle and injection equipment in exchange for a used needle. Needle for needle.”
“I believe that there are numerous social issues that need attention in our community. Many of our biggest issues are interrelated and require a holistic approach. Careful resolution will take time and must involve all three levels of government in collaboration with stakeholders in the community. I’m not sure at this time if a Supervised Consumption Site (SCS) is the answer, as the previous site in Lethbridge was not operating in a way that addressed the root cause. In the end, the SCS acted more as a band-aid of a serious symptom. Until the provincial government sets up facilities that will support harm reduction and rehabilitation, there should be no permanent SCS in Lethbridge. Given the experience that we had with the free needle distribution, I am opposed to that program given the impact on the entire community. Needles should not be handed out, only to be littered in parks, sidewalks, school playgrounds, parking lots and public restrooms. This created a need for other services drawing on resources that could have been directed elsewhere.”
“The SCS facility and needle distribution polarized people on the key issue of harm reduction. Whether there is a facility for supervised drug consumption is a provincial and federal decision, but to tackle the opioid crisis in Lethbridge it will require all levels of government and the community to work together from a place of collaboration – not confrontation. SCS (harm reduction), as one of four pillars of a drugs and substances strategy, is an evidence-based approach for drug policy. Evidence shows, managed correctly, they save lives, connect people to services and serve as a pathway to treatment. It is needed in Lethbridge. We must move beyond the debate of SCS and move forward with a community-based approach to implement and integrate all pillars of the strategy, which also includes prevention, recovery and rehabilitation, and enforcement. Lethbridge drug overdoses deaths were up 67 per cent over last year. I’m hearing about the drugs in parks, back alleys and backyards and openly on the street with alarming frequency. This is where drug consumption should NOT be but has become the only places people can go. Access to needles is part of harm reduction and important in preventing the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. We are not alone in this opioid crisis and can draw from the experience of other municipalities and experts on best practices. Lethbridge needs the necessary social infrastructure to provide all the pillars of the strategy. I don’t have the answers, but I believe collectively we do.”
“Our response to the scourge of drugs in our community should be unified. Nobody wants drugs in their city, but the reality is that they are here, and will continue to be. Facing that reality, we need to address them effectively and with compassion. That involves having a dedicated facility, appropriately located and carefully run, to manage consumption. It is a necessary part of an overall strategy that includes detox and rehabilitation. Location must be determined by various factors, including proximity to services; safety and security concerns; land or building availability; accessible funding arrangements; and others. Needle distribution is also a part of that response; it mitigates the cost of other health services that would be required without it. We need to ensure, however, that needles are not leaving such a consumption facility. We can and must work to reduce the impact of drug addiction in Lethbridge, for the sake of all of us. Supervised consumption services are a component of that effort. Any one of us may not really care about what happens to someone who is addicted to opioids or other drugs – until it is your child, or your sibling, or your neighbour’s child, or your friend, or your co-worker’s spouse. This issue affects us all at some level. We should treat it that way.”
“Supported by both the federal and provincial governments, as well as Alberta Health Services and Health Canada, supervised consumption services and harm reduction supplies are an evidence-based response to the opioid crisis in our community. From a medical and social perspective, these services are demonstrated best practice, used around the world. They have proven to save lives and have community benefit. Providing a clean space for people to use their own substances with trained staff present, these services reduce overdoses, the spread of infectious diseases, and public substance use. They also provide supports to connect individuals to medical and social services, moving them along the continuum of care, toward recovery. Of course, supervised consumption services are part of a continuum of services that support prevention, harm reduction and treatment struggling with substance use. Alongside them also needs to be comprehensive, low barrier treatment and housing options, as well as mental health supports to address the root cause of addiction – trauma. With some of the highest rates of overdose deaths per capita (the first five months of 2021 seeing a 67 per cent increase in overdose related deaths) we do need supervised consumption services in the city to help prevent further deaths of the people in our community. I also think that we need to be strategic about its location and implementation, which is a conversation the next City Council will need to take seriously. As a social worker who works in the field, I believe that I have experience to offer addressing this issue.”
“I recognize that the Supervised Consumption Site (SCS) that was operated by ARCHES and funded by AHS (one of the 17 support services ARCHES operated alongside HIV & Hep C testing, queer health, Indigenous Recovery Coaching, Justice supports, and counselling) was challenging for some folks to get behind. Addiction is a health care issue. It requires mental health and physical health support – and the first step to recovery is harm reduction. Keeping folks alive and reducing the spread of communicable diseases such as hep C and HIV is critical to recovery. Harm reduction can take the form of many things but fundamentally it is about treating everyone with respect and dignity. Addiction can look like many things and the best way to support folks is to meet them where they are at. For some, that is programs like AA and NA. For others it is access to safe housing that has comprehensive supports, like health care, mental health and harm reduction, on site. That is why I am advocating for the City to immediately invest in transition housing and work with existing services to have social work and health care supports on site so that folks can get what they need where they live. It is incumbent on our community and our City to support folks in their path to recovery by ensuring equitable access to basic harm reduction needs like housing and food security. For more on this or to get in touch, visit my site: http://www.jennprosser.ca“
Shelby J. MacLeod
“The consumption site is a complex issue. It is heart breaking that drugs are rampant, not only in our city but across Canada. We need a comprehensive strategy for drug addiction in Lethbridge to ensure ambulance services are not tied up. Addiction issues can be managed at a consumption facility at a lower cost to the taxpayer. I recognize the need for a consumption site in Lethbridge that tests for drug contamination that are causing frequent overdoses and fatalities in our city.
The City has always had drug dealers, providing various narcotics to people who manage their pain and problems with drugs. What happened in society that has caused people to be less resilient and are solving their problems with street drugs?
Data shows the expense to the taxpayer of not providing drug users clean needles to prevent the transmission of hepatitis, HIV and other diseases. Visit the AHS website on managing addiction https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/amh/if-amh-differences-in-therapy.pdf We need to support people where they are in their journey of addiction to wellness. Education and supportive programs are solutions that work. No one wants to be addicted or homeless – sadly something went very wrong in their childhood that has led them to addiction. We need to work together as a Community and Southern Alberta for a supportive solution to the opioid crisis.”
“The Supervised Consumption Site (SCS) was the most divisive issue that our city has faced in my lifetime. There are two groups who need to be remembered in this debate: those addicted and those impacted. It is critical to remember the humanity of those addicted, as they are struggling people and not just a statistic. However, loving them does not mean just handing them a clean needle and leaving them where they are at. In my view, rehabilitation is the way forward. As for those impacted, it is not just a question of economic consequences. Those impacted by the previous SCS included families, downtown residents, and business owners. These are citizens who have built their lives here and don’t deserve to be intimidated, see their customers harassed, and have their property damaged. I fully support providing detox and rehabilitation, but I do not believe that a supervised drug consumption site is the right answer to solve our city’s drug problems. Free needle distribution is a significant issue when those needles start finding their way into our streets, our neighbourhoods, and our playgrounds. There have been too many stories of children finding these needles and hurting themselves, and that is unacceptable. Free needle distribution also can encourage drug use in our streets and can contribute to the notorious reputation that downtown Lethbridge currently has (and other areas of the city). While it is vital to take care of our addicted, detox and rehabilitation is a much better effort to pursue.”
“This topic is an important one, and has certainly generated much controversy in our community in recent years. While I am in support of harm reduction, I definitely do not support a return to what we’ve had with the former Arches facility. I think that any new efforts to establish a supervised drug consumption site need to be well thought out and should involve a thorough investigation of best practices and results produced in other communities. I also believe that any free needle distribution should be exclusively for use within the facility. And if a novel approach is put forward, then a serious and thorough exploration of the potential successes and failures. And whatever approach is decided upon, that strict controls and oversight are put in place to prevent any repeat of the abuses seen with the management of the previous facility and its funds. I acknowledge that there are many people in our community in need of help, and we need to seriously consider what form that should take such that it works for the good of all in both the short and long term.”