Red Deer MLA Jason Stephan says addictions recovery should be Red Deer’s focus, and those who prefer using the overdose prevention site should “transition to other communities.”
Three years ago, Red Deer’s overdose prevention site (OPS) opened in the downtown to quickly respond to Red Deer’s increased overdose fatalities. Operated by Turning Point, site provides a safe, hygienic space for people to consume previously-obtained drugs while being monitored by someone trained and able to provide immediate life-saving measures.
Last month, the province announced the start of construction for Red Deer’s 75-bed addictions recovery centre that Stephan calls a better approach to addictions.
Fully funded by the province, the centre is being built on a 10-acre parcel of land in the Chiles Industrial Park. Construction is expected to be completed by fall 2022.
“Red Deer did not ask for an OPS; the NDP imposed it on Red Deer, ignoring the concerns of civic leaders, local businesses, and families,” said Stephan in a recent letter posted on his Facebook page about homelessness and addictions.
“The OPS has become an attraction for individuals who are not from Red Deer, to come to our city, to live in drug addictions. Because of this drug consumption site, there are more, not less, suffering under addictions in Red Deer.”
He went on to say that regardless of good intentions, the OPS has “facilitated a growing lawlessness, including embedding and emboldening criminal elements, which either abuse the OPS or prey on those living in addictions, some of whom support addiction lifestyles through stealing or robbing businesses and families.”
“There is an exodus of businesses from our downtown. There is too much stealing, too much vandalizing, too much uncertainty for local businesses, their employees, their customers. The city has invested so much of our tax dollars seeking to revitalize our downtown. So much of this effort is being undermined by the OPS.”
“Together we have an opportunity to support a fundamental course correction; focusing on healing and recovering, while providing opportunities for those who want to continue to use OPS services to transition to other communities that wish to continue with these services,” Stephan said.
Turning Point said in a statement that it recognizes that a recovery community will add to the existing continuum of care options for people who use substances.
“The OPS is not only a life-saving device that will continue to be needed, but also an entry into recovery-oriented services for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We recognize recovery is not linear and Turning Point will continue to provide low-barrier, evidence-based services,” Turning Point said.