File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS                                Harm reduction advocates believe the lives of at least 243 Red Deerians could be at risk if the provincial government carries out its proposal to close or relocate some of Alberta’s drug consumption sites.

File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Harm reduction advocates believe the lives of at least 243 Red Deerians could be at risk if the provincial government carries out its proposal to close or relocate some of Alberta’s drug consumption sites.

More than 240 lives in Red Deer hang on the province’s decision about overdose prevention sites, say advocates

The premier says a report examining SCSs will be released in a few weeks

Premier Jason Kenney is making life-or-death decisions as his government looks at relocating or closing some drug consumption sites, say harm reduction advocates.

The lives of at least 243 Red Deerians are at stake, said Deborah Watson, of the Moms Stop the Harm group.

That’s how many people used the overdose prevention site in December, when there were 5,076 overall visits, according to the Turning Point Society of Central Alberta.

Without a centralized location where drugs can be taken indoors and under observation, drug use would once again spill out into the community: “They would be making the whole city an unsafe injection site,” said Watson, who has two adult children dealing with drug addictions — one having relapsed recently after many years of staying clean.

ALSO READ: David Marsden: Drug addicts deserve our care

“I am hoping to see some empathy and compassion (from the government) … As we like to say: Dead people don’t recover …”

Kenney said earlier this week that it’s possible that at least some of the safe consumption sites will be relocated in Alberta.

The premier added, while it was never the government intention to shut all of the sites, “we’re taking a very close look based on the data” resulting from a government-commissioned study on these sites.

Kenney added the results should be made public in a few weeks. But the premier warned that negative social effects of safe consumption sites, including increased crime and property damage, were among the findings.

Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point, said she has to remain optimistic that Red Deer’s overdose prevention site — which took three years to get off the ground — will be allowed to continue operating.

The evidence shows it saves lives, she stressed, since Red Deer has gone from having the highest overdose death rate in the province to one of the lowest. At the site, drug users are observed while taking previously obtained drugs, and are later monitored for adverse events.

There’s often a lineup of people waiting outside the site for one of the four spots inside. Carmichael is hoping an expanded supervised consumption site can open in a renovated location around the corner from the existing location.

She feels this would add some badly needed wrap-around services and help clients transition away from drug use.

As well, if more addicted clients used drugs within the contained supervised consumption site, she said more used needles would be collected on the premises, so there would be less needle debris scattered around the city.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is against losing the supervised consumption site in the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre. In fact, Nenshi feels Calgary would benefit from having a second site, so all the social disorder isn’t concentrated around the one location.

But Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said our city is different than Calgary, which has addictions treatment as well as a supervised consumption site. This city has neither.

She noted this city’s overdose prevention site was only supposed to be a temporary measure.

Veer added while it’s reportedly saved lives, it’s also polarized the community, resulting in a rise in social disorder problems in the area. They mayor said there was no security on site — a statement that was later refuted by Carmichael who said there are two hired security guards on duty 24/7.

City council had wanted the overdose prevention site to be located on hospital grounds, but this was vetoed by the last provincial government, which instead located it behind Superstore.

Many local businesses have since complained that it’s added to crime in the downtown.

Veer stressed she and council are still pushing for all four pillars of harm reduction to be adopted.

Gaining the wrap-around services that could lead some addicted people into treatment wouldn’t necessarily help unless Red Deer also had an addictions treatment centre, added Veer.

Council is waiting to see the results of the provincial review before making further judgments.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

red deer city

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trail RCMP report three impaired driving investigations. Photo: Black Press file
New drunk driving rules allow police to impose tougher penalties immediately

New impaired driving regulations started on Tuesday

(Lacombe Express file photo)
Lacombe County holds the line on taxes

Staff hiring freeze planned for 2021 to make up for lost oil and gas revenue

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.  (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta premier says hospitals stressed by COVID-19, more surgeries may be cancelled

EDMONTON — Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta’s largest hospitals are at 91… Continue reading

A cleaner wipes a glass panel at Toronto's Eaton Centre Shopping mall on Saturday, March 21, 2020. The national statistics office will say this morning how much the domestic economy bounced back in the third quarter of the year. The Canadian economy suffered its worst three-month stretch on record in the second quarter as the economy came to a near halt in April before starting to recover in May and June. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Statistics Canada says economy grew at a record pace in third quarter of 2020

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the economy grew at a record annualized… Continue reading

Bill C-4 passed in the House of Commons to authorize new benefits for workers left jobless or underemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Tory MPs keep talking on assisted dying bill as clock ticks down to Dec. 18 deadline

OTTAWA — Conservative MPs are refusing to be rushed into a vote… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

(Black Press File Photo)
Rimbey woman gathering Christmas gifts for seniors at Valleyview Manor

Margaret Tanasiuk says she doesn’t want anyone to feel forgotten on Christmas morning

Mike Miltimore, seen in Kamloops, B.C., in an undated handout photo, says the Gretsch electric guitar that a woman brought into his store is from 1955 and similar to one played by country music legend Chet Atkins before he developed his signature series of guitars. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Mike Miltimore
Guitar made in 1950s worth more than B.C. family imagined

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — When Renee Latheur decided to take an old guitar… Continue reading

Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel crashed while leading near the end. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Hamilton positive for COVID-19, will miss F1’s Sakhir GP

SAKHIR, Bahrain — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive… Continue reading

In this Dec. 19, 2019 file photo, the advertising label of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, shines at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Leaders of the OPEC cartel are meeting virtually to decide how much oil their countries should produce as the coronavirus stifles demand for fuel. They’re expected to extend production cuts into the new year in an effort to boost prices. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)
OPEC talks on production hit snag as pandemic clouds outlook

FRANKFURT — The OPEC oil producers’ cartel was to push ahead with… Continue reading

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. The Vancouver Whitecaps are hanging on to several of their young players and continuing contract talks with two veterans, including Montero. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Steve Dipaola
Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

Toronto FC forward Pablo Piatti (7) cuts past Vancouver Whitecaps defender Ali Adnan (53) during first half MLS Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto on Friday, August 21, 2020. Barring a new agreement, Toronto FC is parting ways with designated player Pablo Piatti. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto FC looks for new designated player, opts not to pick up Piatti option

Toronto FC looks for new designated player, opts not to pick up Piatti option

Hamilton Forge FC players celebrate their win over CD Olimpia's during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 action in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. After a season that has taken it from Hamilton to Charlottetown, El Salvador and Panama, Forge FC hopes the Dominican Republic is the last stop on the way to the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC just one win away from booking ticket to CONCACAF Champions League

Forge FC just one win away from booking ticket to CONCACAF Champions League

A police officer patrols near the Olympic Symbol being transported on a barge in the Odaiba section Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Tokyo. The five Olympic rings are back in Tokyo Bay. They were removed for maintenance four months ago shortly after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Olympic rings back in Tokyo Bay; a sign of hope in pandemic

Olympic rings back in Tokyo Bay; a sign of hope in pandemic

Most Read