October 29th, 2020

Frustration over lack of provincial support for drug crisis

By Kalinowski, Tim on November 5, 2019.

Mayor Chris Spearman speaks to reporters after the Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use presentation at the Community Issues Committee meeting Monday at city hall. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


Mayor Chris Spearman is expressing his frustration with how little provincial support there has been to date for various requests made by the City on behalf of Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use.

The City’s partners in the Lethbridge Police Service, Lethbridge Fire and EMS, ARCHES, Alberta Health Services and AHS Mental Health and Addictions all made short presentations and stood for questions during the city council’s Community Issues Committee meeting on Monday. The reports, for the most part, re-tread over old ground for those familiar with the city’s opioid and drug crisis, repeating statistics and requests that have been stated numerous times before – with still no new commitments from the provincial government to act on these program and funding requests.

“Today, I respectfully asked the member organizations of coalition about what else we should advocate for,” stated Spearman, “but we actually need a lot of the things we have already been asking for. We need the province to step up as a partner, and we need to see some of those dollars flowing into Lethbridge. Recognizing and understanding that if they are announced tomorrow some of those programs won’t be available for a year, a year and a half or two years.

“We actually have to build facilities and staff them in order to address the drug issue.”

“My frustration is how little has been accomplished,” he added. “There are limits as to what we can do as a municipality and we desperately need help to address the drug issue.”

Spearman said he still didn’t know how much money Lethbridge would be getting even for the province’s previously announced drug treatment beds; let alone some of the City’s more specialized requests.

“I would express my frustration that the things we need, we’ve been asking for some time,” Spearman reiterated. “We need a dedicated Crown prosecutor. How long is that going to take? So we can effectively prosecute drugs. We need a Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) permanent unit in Lethbridge so we can shut down drug houses and stop the supply. How long is that going to take? We need the supports in the City of Lethbridge that are available in the larger cities of Calgary and Edmonton. Our problems on a per capita basis is the largest (drug) problem in the province, and we need the supports.”

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I understand the frustration. I did make pleas to Council not to allow the SCS to open in Lethbridge after watching the Vancouver DTES slide into the abyss over the 15 years since safe injection sites opened there and the numbers continue to increase in crime, the homeless and addicts. It doesn’t work.
Effectively treating addicts is the only way to go, not providing a place with comfortable furniture, music, treats and all the paraphenalia a user needs to do their illegal drugs, all paid for with tax dollars!
The leadership is heavily overpaid at the SCS, with Stacey Bourque earning over $200,000 per year and other leadership also overpaid!
When will people wake up and say enough!!! We need treatment facilities, ‘trained’ staff to man them and effective programs that work and don’t have failure rates of 50 -80% . . . we are just burning treatment funds with the current models!
We need to unite as a community to resolve these issues, bring the truth forward and work together to resovle them!
Enabling users only helps them continue to be addicts, slowly killing them while they commit crimes to support their habits, causing problems for all citizens and if you haven’t been personally impacted by thefts, etc., it is only a matter of time!
We need the federal government involved! Any other crime that is killing over 4,000 Canadians per year and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars would see a federally funded task force and heavily funded.
Lethbridge IS on track to becoming another Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon where you see Tact teams out on regular basis and multiple shooting events . . . it is coming to this city if we do not wake-up!