Groups propose site for Lethbridge drug users

LETHBRIDGE — A southern Alberta city in the throes of an opioid crisis is the latest community planning to seek approval for a safe consumption site for drug users.

A coalition of community groups plans to submit a request at the end of July for one of the federally regulated sites in Lethbridge.

The facility would cost $1.5 million a year and would provide a legal consumption site where health professionals could oversee the use of drugs and ensure safety for users.

“It will reduce the number of overdose deaths and fatalities we are experiencing in our province, which is really at crisis levels. We are losing more people currently to overdose fatalities than we ever did at the height of the HIV epidemic,” said Jill Manning, managing director of the AIDS Outreach Community Harm Reduction Education Support Society (ARCHES).

Manning said it’s estimated that there are about 3,000 individuals who do drugs in Lethbridge, which has a population of almost 93,000, and double that number in southwestern Alberta.

“Our overdose rates are higher in the south zone, so per capita the rates of overdose that we’re experiencing within our emergency medical systems are higher than anywhere else.”

Manning said the overdose rate is 24 per cent higher than anywhere else in Alberta.

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