August 6th, 2020

Methamphetamine growth impacts role of consumption site


By Lethbridge Herald on June 29, 2020.

Drug paraphernalia, including a lighter and pipes, sit on a table in one of the inhalation rooms at the city's supervised consumption site. Herald file photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
There are various reasons why Lethbridge has the most highly used supervised consumption site in Alberta, according to a report presented at city council during Monday’s public meeting, but the worrying rise of methamphetamine usage among local addicts will require a major rethink of the community’s drug response going forward.
The academically rigourous report comparing various similar-sized jurisdictions to Lethbridge presented during Monday’s council meeting was commissioned by city council in September 2019 to try to answer the question of why the City’s SCS has a much higher user rate than other sites in Alberta.
Lead researcher and co-author Alina Turner says the report identifies six contributing factors.
“One is the (ready) availability of substances, the availability of methamphetamines and their relative (inexpensive) costs,” she explains. “The regional service catchment, and the migration pressures to Lethbridge. You are serving a much bigger catchment area: as many as 300,000 people. That puts you in a different context than, say, someplace like Medicine Hat. Another piece is adverse childhood experiences, PTSD, racism and generational trauma that are impacting Indigenous populations in nearby communities as well as in Lethbridge. The homelessness crisis. And that lack of an adequate addiction treatment continuum; so the availability of services to deal with these complex issues, and the availability of those resources, isn’t where it needs to be.
“And lastly, specific on supervised consumption operations, the SCS pre-COVID, they have a much richer offering of services than other communities as well — one of those offerings includes the inhalation booths,” Turner adds. “In our analysis that seemed to factor into the higher use.”
The Herald asked Turner to elaborate particularly on that last point. How does the offering of “richer” services and inhalation booths contribute to increased usage at the SCS?
“Meth is a different beast (than opioids),” she says. “Meth is often co-used with fentanyl as well so the stats from the SCS show that is exactly what is happening. The community responses need to be tailored to the behaviours that come with this use.
“We do have some indications communities that have created a tailored response to meth — not getting rid of the fentanyl response — but a complementary meth response. That would include approaches to safe-sobering that are going to be very different than the ones for fentanyl.”
That being said, The Herald asked Turner if perhaps the supervised inhalation of meth should be withdrawn from the services offered at the SCS? Or whether or not we should have an SCS at all? She says the SCS is one response to the drug crisis, but cannot be the only response to the drug crisis.
“Supervised consumption sites were never meant to be the be-all and end-all response to substance use, and I see there has been a conflation of that in some of the public discourse,” she says. “To me a complex issue like this needs a very fulsome response, and it is never going to be one program or one approach to solve it. I think a recovery continuum includes a range of options. And what has happened in Lethbridge over a number of years is you have introduced a new component of that continuum, which is the SCS, but it was introduced without supportive housing on the back end, it was introduced without adequate mental health supports. The treatment capacity isn’t what it needs to be, and treatment isn’t what it needs to be either. So there is a whole lot that is missing, and so unfortunately that has contributed to the challenges you now see.”
She says one of the important findings of her report is there must be more Indigenous-led efforts brought into the drug crisis response, but it would be false to suggest the problem is only an Indigenous one here in Lethbridge. About 60 per cent of users at the SCS prior to COVID-19 were Indigenous, but the other 40 per cent were largely Caucasian, representing 34 per cent of total drug users at the SCS. What do many addicts have in common regardless of ethnicity? She says many users come from histories of family abuse, intergenerational substance dependency and mental health problems. Many are also homeless.
“Intergenerational trauma, while it is over-represented among Indigenous people, happens in war-torn countries,” she explains. “It happens in terms of family abuse you might be experiencing and also that your parents experienced. That is something that happens in all demographics and all ethnicities as well. We all have folks in our family tree that we can point to and say there was abuse there, or there were things going on in that family. And you can see that connection between mental health and addictions runs in all demographics and all walks of life, but it is certainly over-represented in populations that are marginalized.”
Given we are in an era of increasing fiscal austerity, and many of the things currently missing or underserved in our local continuum of care will likely just not get the levels of funding needed either from the City or the province in the near future, The Herald asked Turner how might we find ways within our existing resources to meet the challenges identified in her report.
Turner points out there are 1,700 local organizations on top of public services dedicated to different aspects of the homelessness, mental health and drug problems in Lethbridge. By combining resources and working more efficiently together, Turner says resources can likely be found to go some of the way toward addressing the current gaps even with limited provincial government supports. COVID-19 might have already shown how this could be done effectively, she says.
“The City has been co-leading with local organizations and provincial government departments with this whole community well-being and safety strategy, and that has prompted a whole restructuring and rethinking of the supports eco-system in Lethbridge,” Turner explains. “I think you have seen that come full circle when COVID hit, and how quickly the social response came into play. What they are doing is looking at the resources they already have and redesigning how those are delivered to be more impactful. Yes, there are gaps in the continuum, but there is also a lot of capacity and a wealth of support and goodwill in the community as well.”
Turner’s full report to council is available on the City of Lethbridge website.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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3 Responses to “Methamphetamine growth impacts role of consumption site”

  1. buckwheat says:

    Thought these were being funded for the opioid crisis. Looks like we’ve switched gears.

  2. ewingbt says:

    You missed a few points, such as this SCS, as opposed to ANY other site has 17 other services it provides, many of which are not directly related to the opioid crisis, such as the LGTBQ supports or the the HIV-AIDS supports, etc . . . other SCS’s do not have these and when they are visited the numbers show on stats.
    You also failed to mention the same people coming in to use the site multiple times in one day, increasing the stats, often one person will be in the site 5 times in one day . . .
    You also failed to mention what you consider measures taken for overdose treatments where just giving oxygen to someone feeling ‘off’ is considered an overdose reversal!

    Sorry, but this site has been proven to generate ‘disinformation’ in an effort to mislead the public so they will support it!

    The question is, when will the Alberta government release the damning findings of this Lethbridge SCS audit done several months ago that found many major issues, including misappropriation of funds, and not producing ‘factual’ reports to City Council, AHS, Health Canada and more importantly, the taxpayer! When will we see this report that saw the firing of an executive staff mamber and when will criminal charges be laid???

    Close the $7 million money pit that generates addicts, allows 16 year olds access and even visibly pregnant young women to get high there!

    Put that $7 million per year into an effective treatment facility in Lethbridge, treating addicts, instead of facilitating and enabling them to slowly kill themselves. We are murdering them!
    June has seen the highest fatal overdose rate ever in this city and guess what . . . they overdosed where they lived, so how does this SCS help!
    In BC and Alberta for the past 2 years about 70% of the fatal overdoses are where addicts reside!
    Do you really want to save lives or just watch them slowly emaciate until they die? Lethbridge has seen a high number of suicides by addicts who kill themselves from the helplessness they find themselves, or by addiction/homeless related diseases this year . . . evidence that more die from the site being open than if we treated what haunts them so they want to ‘fog’ their minds into oblivion.
    Treating the cause of the addition, such as ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) or other epxeriences that have caused PTSD is the answer the the cheapest and most humane way to resolve this problem.
    Watching these young people slowly emaciate as they use up the average 5-7 years of their alloted life once they hit the streets is inhumane and unacceptable for a modern society.
    The SCS is a money pit!
    Effective treatment is the answer!

  3. Dennis Bremner says:

    Turner: but the worrying rise of methamphetamine usage among local addicts will require a major rethink of the community’s drug response going forward.

    Again, something that was predictable, I predicted it over a year ago, so Turners report is nothing inspirational, what it is, is a scathing report of a bunch of loose cannons who decided, for this community, that they “Knew it all” Spearman played the hyper knowledgeable roll well, Council fell behind in his lead and newbie Politicians like our Past Enviro Minister and Fitzpatrick all pretended they knew exactly how to handle this crisis of 300, they did such a wonderful job we now have 1500 and why is that?

    Turner: “The regional service catchment, and the migration pressures to Lethbridge
    Again, something that was predictable, I predicted it over 18 months ago, so again, Turner outlines anything that is either new or “shocking”, what Turner is doing is producing a narrative highlighting the stupidity of “the community strategy”! Its not the communities strategy at all, its Spearmans, Council, two NDP totally uninformed politicians, and two women that saw how gullible this group was, and milked it for all its worth. Spearman goes out and either ignored or chose not to believe that addicts were being transported to Lethbridge. So I ask Spearman, do you still deny it, do you understand the terms Regional Service Catchment and “Migration Pressures to Lethbridge”? I really don’t think you get it Mr Mayor, and even now, when confronted with your own foolishness, you will try to find an escape clause, as if this could not be predicted…..got news for you, its been predictable from the start all you had to do was seek out real professionals, instead you took Bourques Pro’s, now Lethbridge pays and pays dearly.

    Turner says: That puts you in a different context than, say, someplace like Medicine Hat. Another piece is adverse childhood experiences, PTSD, racism and generational trauma that are impacting Indigenous populations in nearby communities as well as in Lethbridge. The homelessness crisis. And that lack of an adequate addiction treatment continuum; so the availability of services to deal with these complex issues, and the availability of those resources, isn’t where it needs to be.

    Again, something that was predictable, I predicted it over 24 months ago. You do not put an SCS in a city that has the two largest hosts for drug addicts. Lethbridge is the worst pick to ever put an SCS as you can see by the “Migration” which again Mr Mayor you denied as being the case. More importantly you brought every “suffering drug addicted addict from miles around and YOU Mr Mayor made it all very possible for the people of Lethbridge to bare the brunt. You openly invited every possible mental health issue to Lethbridge under the guise you had a clue, you do not, the council does not, the NDP idiots do not, and Bourque and Manning? They were rolling in the dough and you could not even figure that out!!

    Turner said : She says one of the important findings of her report is there must be more Indigenous-led efforts brought into the drug crisis response,

    Again, something that was predictable, I predicted it over 24 months ago, the white man/white woman has no business trying to guide Indigenous youth and I can assure Mr Mayor, hanging the OKI shingle on the entrance to Lethbridge does not make you an authority on Indigenous affairs but my bet is you think you are!

    So now that you are obviously aware you have screwed this city over Mr Mayor, let me tell you what is next “Organized Crime” and numerous deaths. I can assure you Mr Mayor, Turner knows whats next too but no one in City Hall cares one way or the other. This fiasco is on you Mr Mayor! you bought into this fiasco hook line and sinker led by Phillips Fitzpatrick Bourgue and Manning!

    A Turner drop term in her report:
    A LETHBRIDGE WHERE EVERYONE BELONGS AND THRIVES.

    Do you know how long that takes? I can tell you from personal experience, it takes 15 years before Lethbridge people will see any improvements that outstrip the negatives of Spearmans folly. Thats how long it took in the majority of cities before you! Vancouver DTES is “that area, not my area” (not part of the “Real Vancouver”) and most Vancouverites just ignore the area as part of the landscape.

    Strangely Turner never mentions the SCS spinoffs? We have 100 of them, DRUGHOUSES!

    So, watch how Lethbridge Residents Ignore the downtown and that means ALL of Downtown because whether Spearman, Phillips, Fitzpatrick Bourgue and Manning and this joke of a Council realize it or not, 2000 addicts will make downtown a ghost town. Soon, “downtown will not be part of Lethbridge” and will be “oh, that area, I don’t go there” for Lethbridge Residents. So remember this group, they contrived this fiasco, and spun it into existence, and if they claim they did not know what I know, then they guessed at your safety and security, because this is General Knowledge in every part of the world and it has followed the same format for 50 years. So playing stupid, just makes you stupid!


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