December 12th, 2018

Committee to develop opioid plan

By Schnarr, J.W. on August 8, 2018.

J.W. Schnarr

Lethbridge Herald

Acknowledging City leadership is late to the game in terms of how it has dealt with the opioid crisis in the city, Lethbridge City Council took steps to rectify the issue on Monday with the formation of a new ad hoc committee and the announcement of at least three upcoming community meetings.

“Council is definitely late to the conversation on this one,” said Coun. Jeff Carlson. “However, we do have a responsibility to the community and we have to step up and recognize where we can lead.”

The community will be invited to take part in coming up with constructive solutions and develop an action plan to tackle the many issues which have sprung up around the opioid crisis.

A series of community sessions will be held to allow stakeholders and interested community members to collaborate on potential solutions and develop a community response strategy that can be implemented quickly.

Council voted to set up an ad hoc committee to address the challenges facing residents, businesses and others in Lethbridge because of the opioid crisis.

The escalating effects of the opioid crisis in Lethbridge and the many issues surrounding it have come to the forefront in recent months as they have in communities across North America.

These effects include drug-related behaviour in or around the downtown area and the Supervised Consumption Site as well as increasing petty crime and discarded needles and other drug paraphernalia in public places.

The fallout of those issues have fractured the community between groups concerned about reducing harm to drug addicts and those concerned that harm-reduction efforts are making public spaces more dangerous.

Those fractures have also boiled over to council.

During discussion, Coun. Blaine Hyggen brought forward three ammendments to the motion in order to strengthen the role of the community in the committee. All three amendments were passed and added to the motion.

An amendment to the structure of the committee would increase the planned size from 10 to as many as 20:

– One member from each of the four federal pillars identified in the federal government identified in Canada’s opioid crisis: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement, and the following:

– Three members of city council;

– The city manager or designate,

– Three members of the business community;

– Three citizens at large;

– One representative from Streets Alive, if available;

– One representative from the local soup kitchen, if available;

– One representative from the Lethbridge shelter, if available;

– Two medical professionals, one health, one mental; and

– One representative from a group dealing with housing people in need, if available.

Coun. Joe Mauro asked for clarification on the goal of the committee, saying it was something that should have been done months ago.

“It seems to me we’re trying to save face by putting this committee together for something that has already been done, and already gone down the path,” he said.

Carlson told him the original notice of motion remained identifying and working toward solutions as a community.

“I very much agree that we are late to the party with this, but it is very much a ‘better late than never’ (situation),” he said.

The new ad hoc committee will follow the guidelines of Health Canada which give a multi-faceted approach to dealing with the opioid crisis including prevention, harm reduction, enforcement and treatment. Terms of Reference setting out the committee’s mandate and structure are to be drafted by the appointed council members and city manager to be presented at the city council meeting on Sept. 4.

Any funding required to support the community sessions would be allocated from council contingencies.

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