Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point Society in Red Deer.

City of Red Deer proposes five sites for mobile Supervised Consumption Site unit

Council discussion gets postponed until next month

Kath Hoffman said nobody from the City of Red Deer consulted with her before deciding the Safe Harbour Society would be a good location for a supervised drug injection trailer.

Hoffman, who is Safe Harbour’s executive-director, said it came as a surprise to see her mat shelter parking lot, at 5246 53rd Ave., among several locations proposed for a mobile supervised consumption service in a city council agenda.

Other location options listed in the supplementary agenda are: The Red Deer hospital parking lot; the old Bettenson’s Sand and Gravel site (at 4310, 4320, 4322 and 4348 52 Ave.); the city’s old Parks department building at 4934 54th Ave. and city parking lot P9 at 5000 47th St.

City council hasn’t determined which of these sites to approve for stops by a SCS trailer.

Hoffman and Turning Point’s executive-director Stacey Carmichael waited for an hour for mobile SCS to come up for discussion at Monday’s council meeting. But several hearings were on the agenda, and council resolved to postpone that discussion until May 14 at the earliest. (Councillors Ken Johnston and Lawrence Lee voted against the delay).

Hoffman predicted opposition could crop up at every trailer location – particularly if the other neighbours also weren’t consulted before their spots were put in the city report.

As for whether she would mind a SCS trailer stopping at Safe Harbour, Hoffman said she wouldn’t – as long as it was run as a secondary service and plans were underway to get a permanent SCS site operating as well.

Hoffman agrees with Carmichael that a permanent SCS site would work best for Red Deer. The women say this was determined by clients who would use the service, addictions experts, Alberta Health Services and provincial officials, and two studies.

A mobile unit would only have room for two people to inject drugs at a time and two to be observed afterwards, said Carmichael. A permanent site would have more room for clients to smoke as well as inject drugs, and offer links to a wide array of services.

City council turned down Turning Point’s request to open a permanent SCS site at its downtown location. Businesses and residents complained there was already too much impact from drug use, needle debris, and disturbances in the city’s core.

Council approved a hospital location, but this wasn’t favoured by Turning Point’s clients. The harm reduction group’s staff are now considering other locations for a permanent site, but still considers their own building the best option.

Carmichael said the mortgage is nearly paid. While the province will provide funding for a building renovation, but not enough for a whole building project.

While the debate continues, 16 Red Deerians have died from overdoses so far this year.

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