May 25th, 2024

Needle debris spreads in city

By Lethbridge Herald on September 16, 2020.

An Alpha House staff member walks past the new mobile overdose prevention site Wednesday afternoon set up outside of the city's homeless shelter. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
With still limited usage of the new mobile overdose prevention site by Lethbridge’s most vulnerable, Sage Clan Patrol leader Mark Brave Rock is warning local officials and residents that drug use and needle debris are now proliferating around the city in a way his group, which does community outreach and needle and drug debris collection, hadn’t seen before the former supervised consumption site closed.
“Definitely yes,” Brave Rock responded when asked if his group has seen more problems since the ARCHES-run SCS closed on Aug. 31.
“We have encountered a lot more ODs and the needles have increased in the downtown area. Last night (Tuesday) we did a late patrol separate from our regular patrol just to check areas outside of downtown. We found six needles in one spot at the skatepark at Henderson right by the ball diamond. We have gone out and done these types of spot checks from people on the street who inform us, and they are there.
“The usage of drugs has gone beyond the downtown in a centralized area (near the old SCS) that was the major place in the past,” he added.
Brave Rock said, from what he is hearing and seeing, Alpha House, the organization which runs the homeless shelter where the mobile OPS is located, has tightened security since taking over management.
“Being around the area, I don’t see much use of the OPS, I can say,” said Brave Rock. “Alpha House does not want people hanging around the area where the mobile unit is located. So they (the drug addicted) are leaving the area. Alpha House has done a good job there clearing the area. The dealers aren’t there.”
Brave Rock said that means people seeking drugs among Lethbridge’s homeless are going elsewhere in the city to buy, and they are going to use close to where they buy.
“They are not going to go all the way over there (to the OPS) just to use, and take advantage of that service,” he explained. “They are not going to pay a cab to go over there. They are just using everywhere, and needles are being found all over the place.”
According to the office of the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan, the mobile OPS served about 33 clients per day between Sept. 1 and Sept. 13. The unit has dealt with two overdose reversals and eight other events which required supportive medical measures since opening on Aug. 17.
There have been no overdose deaths at the OPS. No one has been turned away due to capacity issues, and referrals to additional help for users of the site are being made.
“The new Alberta Health Services (AHS) Overdose Prevention Service (OPS) is providing an effective service to addicts in Lethbridge,” says a statement from the Associate Minister’s office.
However, there have been more overdose events outside of the OPS in the broader community during that timespan.
Lethbridge EMS responded to 32 events requiring naloxone in August, and it responded to 14 overdose events requiring naloxone between Sept.1 and Sept. 13, the Associate Minister’s office confirmed.
Information provided by Luan’s office also indicates there has been no noted upward trend in overdose deaths in September in Lethbridge since the SCS closed.
“There is no indication of a change in trend in opioid-overdose deaths in Lethbridge in the first two weeks of September,” the statement reads; “the data is not available from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner as the numbers are too small to release due to the potential to identify individual persons.”
There have been anecdotal reports about increased overdose deaths in the AHS South Zone in recent months. An Alberta Health spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday no official stats have been compiled for public release yet, but the quarterly report on overdoses and overdose deaths in Alberta between April and June is expected to be released in the next few weeks. The quarterly report for July, August and September won’t be out until November.
Numbers released by the British Columbia Coroners Service at the end of August indicate a massive spike in suspected overdose deaths in that province since March when COVID-19 hit. In February there were 73 deaths, the report indicates, in March there were 113 deaths, and that number trended upward in the following months with 174 deaths reported in May, 177 reported in June, and 175 reported in July.
Alberta’s numbers are also anticipated to follow a similar trend when Alberta Health’s quarterly report is officially released.
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Citi Zen

I suspect these useage numbers are more realistic, not the inflated visits claimed by the SCS in order to garner more funding. Also SCS likely wouldn’t report overdose deaths either.


This report seems a bit falsified. We have been watching very closely when driving to and from work, and have noticed that the number of tweaked out people on the sidewalks between our home and schools and work has pretty much dropped to null when compared to prior months where we saw people every day. We have also not been hit up by high users for cash when going into grocery stores and the likes. It seems that closing the SCS may actually be helping to reduce the drug use and may be assisting in involuntary treatment as the addicts have to go further to obtain their drugs, and many may not even know where to go get them since they have stopped being sold in a consistent place with no interference from the police. Last year we had to stop our children from walking to school due to drug addicts occupying the walkways. We are now comfortable with sending them on their own again. Additionally we are very active users of the community playgrounds and parks. We have literally found no needle debris around playgrounds in our area since the SCS shut down. It may be possible that more overdoses are occurring, but in the wake of drugs not being sold at the same location day after day it may even be making harder for people to find the drugs to overdose on. The druggies certainly aren’t out in full force on the streets or occupying the public spaces that we use anymore. I for one am happy to see that the province is changing their direction from enabling drug addicts to making treatment the priority. When it comes to social responsibility it seems to me that the needs of the many (the general population) out weighs the wants of the few (drug addicts) that want to continue with their abusive lifestyles.

Dennis Bremner

Braverock is incorrect in what he says. First of all he said the problem was “centralized” while the SCS was running. It has not been centralized for well over 5 years now. How do I know without walking around with Braverock? There are 100+ Drug houses in Lethbridge, they are in the East, they are in the West, they are in the North and they are in the South. The SCS serviced 130 clients. If you assume that the SCS numbers of “Registered users” is correct, and I have no reason to suspect it was wrong, then there were 1647 Addicts registered with the SCS. Yet, only 130 used the facility. That means 1508 never used the SCS. That also means that if you believe EVERY user in Lethbridge Registered, then you are naive’. So lets assume that 1000? or would you prefer 500 did not register, pick a number. That means that 2008 or 2508 you pick, did not use the SCS and 130 did. So, lets suppose for this discussion one dies ASAP. Now, did he/she die because the SCS was not there or was he/she one of the 2508 that never used the SCS? Lets deal with facts not a bias opinion. For instance, has Mr Brave Rock scouted the 1647 registered users list that SCS said they had, to determine if the people that are ODing are ex SCS people or do they belong to the group who never used the SCS? Ultimately these are the “facts”. 7.8% of the registered users used the SCS. That assumes that the 1647 are all the addicts in Lethbridge. If you consider that likely 1000 did not. Then the number of people treated by the SCS falls too 4.9%. This is why the SCSs amazing numbers of SAVING LIVES, never added up. Why? if they saved 1000 lives in a one month period while only having 130 people then the other 92.2% would be croaking like flies flying into the grill of a moving car. No such massive death toll occurred in the “other 92.2% of the Addicts.
If you now consider that for 130 people in a population of Lethbridge (100K) we were willing to destroy our Downtown because the NDP and Spearman Council thought that would be neat!

As for “alot more OD’s” BC is experiencing the same thing and they have SCS’s.
If needles are an issue, the SCS did not do it for free, they billed the Provincial Government for their time. So the most knowledgeable Spearman and Council hire the same people and bill the province, case closed!

Last edited 3 years ago by Dennis Bremner