July 12th, 2024

SCS closure created safety concerns for drug users, study concludes

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 26, 2023.

Herald file photo - Demonstrators stand in front of the supervised consumption site as they protest the end of services at the site on the final day of ARCHES operation at the facility in 2020.

A new research study is showing the impacts of closures on safe consumption sites and how it creates a safety concern for people who use drugs.

Researchers from Athabasca University, University of Alberta, and the University of Winnipeg, interviewed 50 people who use drugs about the impacts of the closure of Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site, closed back in August 2020, and the impacts of the closure.

The study found that people choose not to use a mobile replacement facility due to safety concerns, location, and lack of support services.

Back in 2020 the supervised consumption site in downtown Lethbridge was closed amid controversy, and replaced with an overdose prevention site located across from the stabilization centre. The research team, Katharina Maier (U of Winnipeg), Marta-Marika Urbanik (U of A), and Carolyn Greene (Athabasca U), had originally intended to focus their research on victimization and experiences impacting access to services in Lethbridge. But when the site was shut down, they switched gears to explore the impact of that policy decision.

“Dr. Urbanik and I were engaged in Edmonton and Calgary looking at the experiences of people in areas surrounding the safe consumption sites. Based on the finding we had there, we decided to expand out to Lethbridge, in part because the safe consumption services offered there were the most widely used in North America,” said Greene. “We ended up going into Lethbridge after the site closed, so we pivoted to look at what, if any, impact its closure had for people.”

Spending 10-12 hour days in the city, the trio interviewed those in the area gathering information.

“There were three key findings that emerged from the stories that people shared with us. Most of the folks who had access to the safe consumption site were no longer accessing harm reduction services in the same way they were going to at the new overdose prevention site,” said Greene, noting the three key reasons that emerged were: how they were allowed to use their drugs, the safety of getting to the new area coupled with concerns with the new location, and alternative services for aid no longer being offered.

With people no longer having access to the supervised consumption site, and not using the alternative overdose prevention site, they would instead use in public spaces.

“It was harmful to them because they are now using in public space, and that is not safe. That is not safe for anyone. It is a concern in terms of social order, we don’t want to encourage public drug use, and we know that safe consumption sites reduce public drug use,” said Greene. “The other thing to point out, and probably what made Lethbridge’s safe consumption site so well used, were the level of services that were provided. The wraparound services for clients. It wasn’t just a place you could use drugs supervised, there were other services you could be connected to. That was really important to the people and they really valued it.”

Research data from the study will help show how consumption sites are viewed by those accessing the services, but also with how society addresses the ongoing issues. “From our perspective based on the evidence, what it is telling us is that, in an ideal world we would re-establish a safe consumption site in Lethbridge, similar to the one offered by Arches,” said Greene. “Failing that, and given the climate in Alberta, that may not be likely. Expanding the number of overdose prevention sites in Lethbridge could be beneficial in the absence of a safe consumption site.”

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Dennis Bremner

These “experts” have no idea what they are talking about but that is atypical of the entire group.
These people continue to pop into Lethbridge and assume the solutions to the problems used by every other City in Alberta or Canada apply here or for that matter even work. At no time does these “experts” compare percentage increase in deaths to other Alberta Cities that already have SCSs over the same time period. So it appears it is irrelevant that other Alberta Cities with SCSs saw rises in deaths too? It also is treated as irrelevant that Drug Addicts had access to CERB during this period and consumed more drugs. It is also irrelevant to them that because of COVID Lethbridge put these people up in Hotels where they partied endlessly.
Secondly, a properly run SCS (those in Europe) never mix rehab or rehab material with using. So every SCS in Europe is literally sanitized of rehab material. It is door in, shoot up, door out. They have strict rules against loitering anywhere near the SCS because its not a clubhouse like ours was. If allowed another in Lethbridge it will be another Clubhouse because that’s what Canada does. That’s why it is opposed so vehemently! SCSs in Europe employ about 3 people on average. One person to test the users drugs, one person to accompany the addict and one overseer. Our SCS employed 177 people consumed $7million of Taxpayer money per year, and untold donations!. Rehab numbers never increased but handholding did.
Lastly, you will note that all these studies only concentrate on one set of numbers if they work for the author. Where are the numbers of successful rehab as a result of the SCS destroying downtown? Would you not think that someone who is proposing the SCS was successful would back this up with numbers that suggest success? After all they say they accumulated the data over years, so why would you not follow the process of rehab people as well? Reason? The numbers don’t work, that’s why, its a total failure!
These “experts” talked to 50 people. We have 409 so why not the others? They never stated how the questions are asked. That is most important! From what I can see “these experts” have not produced a paper stating what the exact questions were, why?
Remember this, how you phrase a question can get you the answer you want to hear, the most famous of questions that creates a trap is “When did you stop beating your spouse”?
So if I ask,
How badly did you feel after you lost the SCS services when they closed —-on a scale of 1-10?
I can get the answer I want, I have guaranteed the person will respond that they felt badly in range 1-10 because there is no other answer.

More of the same BS, bleeding hearts who never study impacts on businesses, residents or livelihoods supporting other bleeding hearts in the pursuit of money

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner

Thanks for the voice of reason. Pretty sad what qualifies for a “study” these days. Whose definition of a study? This is beyond sad what are universities are producing for future “thinkers”. How much does this crap cost us per year?
More actual thinking needs to be directed to why (if even true) there is safety concerns towards mobile SCSs? Funny all you had to do is park outside the old SCS and see addicts running out with needles to go shoot up in the parking lot across the street. Because that was where the dealer was, who they just bought the drugs from. And there wasn’t any cops there to bust the dealers. It was openly happening with the security officers told to look the other way.


What our universities are producing….


It is scary what our universities are producing!


Turnbine-wine . . .
” …..Our SCS employed 177 people consumed $7million of Taxpayer money per year, …..”
That was just in wages wasn’t it? I could be wrong, but I thought once it was closed the total costs from open to close was somewhere around $24 million.
I will have to check back in my files . . .


Safety concern for drug users. What? What about the safety of the ninety five per cent who aren’t and are getting mugged, assaulted on the street and their property stolen, What an asinine headline.


Funny how the bleeding hearts talk about how mean it would be to fence these people or put them in compounds. While the rest of the city has to increase security fences, security guards and fence themselves in. They have more freedom than we do.


The addict and homeless have more rights than the taxpayers!


Safety concerns for drug users ? Is this not akin to someone wanting to shoot themselves in the head complaining that the local bullet supplier has put them at risk by not first sterilizing the “free” bullets they distribute ?
The SCS WAS the risk….


Who paid for the research? NDP? Moms Stop the Harm? Your researched is full of flawed information.
There was and is support services available at that site! If you are going to come to our city and perform research using you University as credentials that we are supposed to trust I would suggest you get the information correct!
Lethbridge did NOT have the busiest consumption in the world, as we would labelled, but SCS inflated the figures stating there were over 850 users per day at one point, but just weeks later after AHS took over, the truth was revealed by both Stacey Bourque and AHS stating the actual figures were just over 140 per day, with the same people using the site multiple times.
Often when people asked to speak with a counselor to see if they set the up for an appointment to be put into an addiction treatment program, they were told to come back in a few days. Even addicts who stated it was a bad place!
I also worked for a few years on the streets dealing with addicts, often talking with them to see if they had considered getting treatment, and they things like I tried, but couldn’t find any, or some other reason and when I said I could get them someone to talk with that day . . . their story changed . . . the same as when I said I could find them job . . . the story changed.
I would like to know which 50 people you spoke? Were they in the encampment?
I am tired of hearing false information spred freely to support ones plans or actions.
Alberta was misled by non-profits into believing harm reduction works! It doesn’t! BC has tried to make it work for 20 years and thousands of people died in the process of this mad experiment on people! Alberta got sucked in but then the UCP looked at how badly it has failed!
Alberta has 7 SCS/mobile OPS sites! Saskatchewan has one not funded by SK goverment and Manitoba has no SCS sites.
Both SK and MB had 1/3 the number of fatal overdoses of Alberta!
This is a serious issue that is killing people and has costs the local Lethbridge taxpayer tens of millions of municipal tax dollars, and tens of millions more pumped in by the provincial and federal governments.
Last year, the Lethbridge taxpayer (local municipal dollars) paid over $10 million due to the homeless addiction issues. I cannot give you a better figure, only that it is well over $10 million. City Hall tells me they don’t track the money and where it goes!
And think these Universities should get their own houses in order before they come down in judgement and spreading false information in our city!


Thank you once again Mr. Ewing.
Was that you who the herald covered in a recent article on this subject? How did you manage that? More voices need to be heard,then perhaps more people will open up to the facts. Too many people get labelled as racist and shut out of this discussion if they don’t agree with the SACPA crowd.
What you pulled off is amazing to get your voice actually published.

Dennis Bremner

Truer words were never spoken, if you choose not to support the SACPA Crowd thought process, you are alone! They appear to only pick speakers that support the norm, nothing out of the box, it more than challenges the concept of “variances of opinions on things that concern Lethbridge”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner

Turbine. SACPA is nothing more than a bunch of NDP hacks playing what they think is an important role in disseminating partisan info. Anything but.


Thank you Montreal13 . . . It is Barry, not Mister . . . but thanks.
I am not sure how it made front page . . . maybe because of the severity of the issues in this city? It stemmed from my presentation to the Police Commission.
Media, as well as Lethbridge citizens are now seeing the truth after many of us have tried to expose the truth and show that BC has mishandled the issues and thousands are now dead because of it!
People are waking up and gaining more knowledge after being hood-winked by the SCS/non-profits and are tired of lies.
Many of us have been engaged since 2016 to first stop the SCS, then to shut it down, so a lot of research has been done and it does pay off in the end.
By the grace of God we got the SCS shut down! Many of us are still fighting for our city, to take it back . . . our parks, neighbourhoods, streets and downtown and because we backed off after the SCS and LOPS were shut down, actually believing our leadership would finish the job, just to have our city gradually over-run again.
Lesson learned . . . we are going to finish the job this time! Spring time will see a legal, but aggessive protest/lobbying campaign to end this gong-show on our streets!
Since we had to once again focus on this matter, taking much of our time away that could be used to enjoy life . . . we will not stop until our streets are taken back. I do believe city leadership understands this and have been working hard to resolve the issues as well.
I was surprised the article was front page, but I firmly believe the grace of God has been the major factor!
Too many people have died needlessly and too many families have been destroyed! I should add . . . too many downtown businesses were lost directly because of the issues, while many others suffered major revenue losses.

Last edited 1 year ago by ewingbt