A supervised consumption site may be in Red Deer’s future after council gave first reading to an amendment that would licence a mobile version of the site.
Late last year, council decided the only place in the city where a permanent supervised consumption site could be was the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
Turning Point’s executive director said 17 people have died from an overdose since then.
“It will take several months to make this happen, if it’s a route we want to go,” said Stacey Carmichael. “We could have been well on the way for a permanent site by this time.
“This is a health crisis. If this were any other health concern, resources would be in place, the facility would be operating, and it would have community support. Addictions and people who use drugs are shrouded by stigma.”
Carmichael believes a mobile site would be able to prevent some overdose deaths, but a fixed site would provide a significant reduction in those deaths.
At a special meeting Tuesday, council made the first step to approve mobile supervised consumption sites in Red Deer. The issue will return to city council May 28.
“It’s a first step,” said Coun. Ken Johnston. “Obviously, it’s not as ideal as a permanent location. It’s a step we really need to take.”
The bylaw proposes fives locations in Red Deer where a mobile unit could be set up: the hospital, a city parking lot at the intersection of 51st Avenue and 47th Street, near the intersection of 54th Avenue and Taylor Driver, Safe Harbour or the parking lot on 52nd Avenue north of 43rd Street.
A unit, typically a recreational vehicle, would operate under specific hours and would be housed at a separate location when the site is closed.
Coun. Tanya Handley added an amendment to limit the number of permits to one unit. Coun. Lawrence Lee added an amendment requiring the site to be left the way it was found or the provider would face fines.
“I want to see us limit the amount of licences that may be allowed, just until we can see the impact on our community,” said Handley.
Handley supported the motion, but admitted she had some concerns around issues mobile sites have had in Kelowna and Kamloops such as queue management and capacity inside the unit.
“That caused lineups outside, which led to things like fighting and loitering,” she said.
There will be no public hearing about the issue at the May 28 meeting because it is being considered through the city’s license bylaw.
The permanent site was considered as a land-use amendment, which required a public hearing. Land owners within 100 metres of a site will be consulted when an application is made for a licence.
Council did invite public comment, saying there will be an opportunity for people to submit their thoughts about the decision. People can submit written comment by May 19 for inclusion on the May 28 agenda.