October 30th, 2020

Mayor concerned about future of harm reduction


By Lethbridge Herald on July 16, 2020.

Mayor Chris Spearman speaks to reporters during a press conference Thursday after the province announced it would be defunding ARCHES following an audit of the local organization which runs the Supervised Consumption Site. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
Calling the results of an audit of ARCHES, which revealed serious fiscal mismanagement leading to the province’s decision on Thursday to defund the organization, deeply troubling and potentially devastating to the city’s most vulnerable, Mayor Chris Spearman said the City of Lethbridge was committed to working with the province to define the next steps forward.
“I feel angry, to be honest,” said Spearman when asked Thursday about the audit report. “We have in good faith thought harm reduction and supervised consumption was perhaps a needed service. Certainly it is disappointing to hear there wasn’t the right accountability.”
Spearman said the City only has one remaining program it funds with ARCHES after moving others over to the Canadian Mental Health Association earlier this spring.
“Right now the only funding that’s currently provided to ARCHES is for removal of encampments,” he explained. “All the other services now have either been funded internally by ARCHES, for example needle pickup, and other services like the rapid rehousing of those with severe needs, that has now been transferred to other agencies.”
Spearman said he does not know how things like needle pickup and maintaining regular contact with the city’s drug users will be handled now if ARCHES is out of the picture, and with the future of supervised consumption services in the city in doubt.
“We don’t want the problem to be worse in the community, and we don’t want a proliferation of drug use throughout the community,” he said. “We want people to feel they can go access the services they need to make sure this problem doesn’t get worse before it gets better.”
Spearman said he still believes in the value of harm reduction as one of the four pillars of care in the community, and he was curious to see how the province’s proposed AHS-run temporary mobile supervised consumption service would work in Lethbridge.
“I don’t know what the capacity is if they will be able to keep up with the needs,” he stated. “Certainly we want to make sure people have those services that need them, and can access them. We will leave it to the province to bring forward the next steps as to how they are going to address the issues.”
Last autumn prior to the announcement of the provincial audit of ARCHES in March, Coun. Blaine Hyggen sponsored a motion to ask the province to suspend funding for supervised consumption services in Lethbridge pending a provincial government review of these services going on at the time.
His motion also called for ARCHES to continue be funded for other programs while that review was underway. The motion sparked widespread debate in the community, and was eventually defeated in council by a vote of 6-3.
Hyggen released a statement on Thursday saying he was still analyzing the auditor’s findings.
“Lethbridge is a passionate community, and at the end of the day, regardless of the side of the coin you are on, we can all agree that healthy and safe residents make for a more vibrant community,” he said. “I remain committed to this and am unwavering in my ideologies that recovery needs to be addressed in Lethbridge in a big way. In light of announcement yesterday from our provincial partners (about investing $25 million for 400 new treatment beds), I am confident Lethbridge will be on the right path for a healthier future.”
Admitting it was blindsided by the announcement after first hearing about it in the media, ARCHES also released a statement on Thursday following the revelation it would be losing provincial funding.
“Considering the media information that has been reported in connection to the forensic audit, the ARCHES’ Board of Directors understands that clients, staff and community members will have a lot of questions and very real concerns,” the statement reads in part. “We have concerns, too. We woke up to this news just like the rest of our community and at this time the full report findings have not been given to the ARCHES’ Board of Directors. Please understand we are waiting to comment until we have all of the information.”
The organization also states it will hold a press conference on the issue once it has processed all the auditors’ findings.
Elaine Hyshka, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, said her immediate concern is for the people using the site.
“I am really worried what will happen to them with the closure of ARCHES,” she said.
A quarterly surveillance report from Alberta Health showed there were 439 unique clients who made more than 60,000 visits to the Lethbridge site in the first three months of this year.
“There is a huge unmet need for services,” said Hyshka.
The government said it has asked Alberta Health Services to set up a temporary mobile overdose prevention site in Lethbridge to help those clients.
Hyshka said mobile services are designed to serve smaller numbers of people.
“That’s certainly not the case in Lethbridge.”
Hyshka questioned why the province doesn’t have another provider step in similar to what it did for a homeless shelter in Lethbridge in April.
“I’m curious as to why that solution wasn’t used in this case,” she said. “This is a life-and-death issue, so why not have another organization take over?”
A spokeswoman for Alberta Health said there have been roughly 130 client visits per day to the Lethbridge site since March.
“Based on that utilization, we expect that the overdose prevention site … will be able to match the capacity,” said Kassandra Kitz, ‎press secretary to the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, in an email.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter
With files from Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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Citi Zen

There is a high likelyhood that at least some of the addicts will now move on, or go back to where they came from. The end of the SCS can only be a positive for Lethbridge. If the AHS mobile unit can’t handle the large numbers of users, then clearly there are too many users. Are non of these people the least bit interested in getting help?
The City should most certainly discontinue any further funding for Arches. Can the Mayor and Council really say “Oh that’s OK, here’s another few million to keep you going”? Condoning this kind of activity is absolutely ludicrous in the eyes of any sane person.

Dakota

Mayor Spearman should hang his head in shame for arrogantly ignoring the valid concerns of citizens, ignoring the surge in criminal activities in the localities of the ARCHES business area, ignoring the concerns of business owners and displaying such a pompous attitude toward anyone having an opinion on this matter which differs from his own. The Mayor should resign effective immediately. The next step should be to hold a vigorous criminal investigation into obvious fiscal malfeasance with the executive board members of ARCHES. The entire ARCHES history has been a fiasco from the get go and it looks obvious that provincial and city funding was grossly mismanaged, likely to criminal degree. How much more economic, social and business damage should ARCHES, their executives and their clientele be allowed to reap upon the city? This entire debacle was allowed to spiral out of control while the Mayor ignored the statistics, warning signs and countless citizens and business owners concerns. The citizens can voice their anger at the ballot box next civic election and eject this dismissive Mayor. This is what happens when ego and arrogance over rules rational logical judgement.

Dennis Bremner

Seems rather strange that a Board of Directors suggests that they cannot comment on the report. Yet, there job is to ensure the public’s money is spent appropriately. So how is it that the ARCHES Board of Directors does not know what ARCHES is doing with the money received? There job as a Director is to oversee that very function.
So, it would appear the Name Tag of Board of Director was only window dressing and a Social Shingle to hang out as clout when at parties?
You will note there is a continual change in numbers throughout every report. The purpose is clear, its to confuse readers because 439 Unique Clients could be for ALL ARCHES functions or it could be strictly SCS but the flip between accomodates massiveness, so its whatever works and keeps people confused. The 130 Client visits per day to the site? Where did the largest site in the world disappear too? There are sites that have more than 130 Clients and for some strange reason do not get the frequency of visits, SCS likes to report! So are we to believe that everyone of these 130 clients visit 4-5 times a day and its a “Lethbridge thing”? Why do you need 177 employees for 130 clients? If 130 clients were inside SCS at the sametime all day, all night everyday, it still does not add up to 177 employees.
The book keeping of this Site is not just a financial failure, but also a person count failure. I have no doubt that if Johnny the Drug Addict walked through the door with a CheeseBurger and needed a place to sit, it was counted as a visit and the Province Billed accordingly (read taxpayer).

So what exactly did the “Board of Directors” direct? Company parties and gift card dissemination?

Elaine Hyshka is “worried what will happen to SCS clients”? Let me help you Elaine. We have 1500 addicts (last count) that migrated here from afar to Spearmans Drug Center. Out of those 1500 addicts 130 actually use the SCS, the other 1370 do not. The 130 addicts that do use the facility visit the SCS for more than shooting up. They are the same addicts that walked into the SCS to get a chitload of needles and pipes to take back to the Crackhouses. There are 100 crackhouses in Lethbridge. So assuming 15 addicts per house, that means each house needs a minimum of 45 needles to 60 needles per day.
So assuming an addict comes into the SCS and picks up 60 needles to take back to the crackhouse, that would mean out of all the visits per day, you have 100 of those per day, strictly for needle pick up by 100 houses. Add in the Cheeseburger visits and suddenly the worlds biggest crackhouse (SCS) is a former shell of its audited self.

Suddenly harm reduction really does not look like you portray. Suddenly, in fact, this entire program looks at best, farcical. The 1370 that are not using the Goodie Two shoes fabricated “Harm Reduction” are not exactly dying in the streets as SCS supporters would have us believe. In fact people finally are waking up to this total BULL that is being spread by the Nutbars bent on killing this city.

So don’t worry Elaine, the EMS units and Hospital will still carry Naloxone and life will go on for 99% of the people who inject poison “for a high”. Its rather strange you mention the 130 but ignore the 1370? It illustrates your motivation, me thinks Elaine!

Its almost like you do not remember that Vancouver was the only facility in Canada at one point, were people dying by the 100s in the other cities that did not share Vancouvers Stupidity? Harm Reduction is an enterprise of major wealth for those that participate. Vancouver Audit a few years back showed the same big money being made by the “Holier than thou” with the same insult level to anyone that questioned them. Finally after taking verbal abuse from SCS Supporters, I have been vindicated. I have seen this BULL repeated 10s of times around the world, and ALL SCSs end the same way, some quicker than others. I am glad this one died a quick and painless death! SCSs that survive do so by ensuring the shuttle of clients ASAP to their facility so they become “to big to fail”, thankfully, the Numbers CON was caught with this one early!
The only REAL Victims here are the Lethbridge Residents who had to endure this stupidity! If the Nutbars are controlled, and this city is given 6 months of “QUIET” you will see just how little effect the closing of the SCS will have. In fact the only evidence of the drug problem here will be the occassional overdose unless a bad supply comes in. But, the Nutbars NEED to keep the NEED for an SCS, otherwise the truth actually gets out. That truth is, SCSs make no difference to Drug Addicts! What SCSs are used for after Crackhouses are setup is a drop in house, a source for pipes and needles and the occassional sit down for a Cheeseburger! That truth will be fought tooth and nail because the sham of SCS will be exposed if allowed to be seen, so standby for the Nutbars to line up and post rant after rant to this paper espousing pending death by the 100s!
Do you really want to help addicts? Setup an office for Addicts to visit, have tribal elders as well as “Whitey” councilors and encourage Rehab. Do not enable, do not encourage the use, and do not provide a place to shootup, period! Its their habit, not yours! LISTEN to addicts, find out what they need, they do not need NUTBARS, they never had a need for NUTBARS!
The Mayor’s “concerns” , its hard to even take him seriously considering what he has done to this city!

HaroldP

It is the Mayor who supported the SCS all along, not listening to residents, not even listening to his City Councillors, belittling them at Council meetings, (Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro) calling them names (Moron) and bullying them along. The Mayor has failed to respond to concerned residents, business owners and the community at large. The answer(s) are not throwing money at the issue(s) of addiction, we now see where this money is going….. SCS Board and Executive have apparently been totally irresponsible as evidenced in the finding of the Provincial Audit.

Thankfully, due to significant efforts of the public, the scene will be changing soon, and that not with thanks to the Mayor, but to our Provincial Government.

We did not and do not have leadership that represents the community well, it is dysfunctional. All fingers point at one person, the Mayor.

Will the Mayor do the admirable thing, and resign? We can not continue along the current path as a community, now the 3rd largest in Alberta.

Contrary to our Mayor’s mind set, it is interesting to read what the Mayor to the east of us has to say regarding additions in general. Mayor Ted Clugston and Medicine Hat City Council appear to have their act together. https://medicinehatnews.com/news/local-news/2020/01/30/no-chance-for-city-supervised-consumption-funds-mayor/

Ragnar

I am really afraid of what this mayor may try and do next, I shudder to think about it.

Citi Zen

Agreed. It almost certainly won’t involve common sense.

Lethrez

For those worrying and wondering who is going to look after and save the addicts now, please direct your questions to Stacey Bourque, and those complicit with her, who didn’t care enough about them in the first place to run the facility appropriately and legally.

If you are blaming the UCP for stopping the funding, you are barking up the wrong tree, and not interested in holding the right people accountable.