Red Deer readies for supervised drug consumption site

Now all we need is an application for one

(Contributed photo).

Red Deer city council is changing local bylaws to make way for a mobile supervised injection site that will keep drug addicts from fatally overdosing.

But Coun. Michael Dawe wanted to make it clear on Monday that nobody has yet officially put in an application for any kind of supervised drug consumption site to set up in Red Deer — in a building or a mobile trailer.

Furthermore, no one has yet sought an exemption from federal law so that street drugs can be legally consumed at this site.

“We’re getting letters from people, asking why we’ve turned down an application when no actual applications have been received,” said Dawe.

With Red Deer’s high fentanyl-related overdose deaths, the Alberta government had encouraged the local harm reduction group, Turning Point, to explore the logistics of starting a safe drug consumption site in Red Deer.

While Turning Point had hoped to open a downtown site by the spring, the city did not approve a potential downtown location. Instead Red Deer hospital and/or its parking lot were chosen by council last month.

In response, Turning Point stated it wasn’t interested in operating at the hospital, which is too far for many of the drug users to access. But Alberta Health Services’s Central Zone Chief Kerry Bales promised discussions would continue and the city would be included in these talks.

So far, Mayor Tara Veer hasn’t heard anything about further discussions.

But city council decided to be pro-active by putting a process in place in case an application for a SCS is made.

On Monday, council directed administration to prepare amendments to the License Bylaw to include a definition of “mobile supervised consumption services” and other related services. It’s to come back at a future council meeting.

Veer and Coun. Lawrence Lee spoke in favour of getting more preventative services, such as the long-sought-after local addiction treatment centre.

Coun. Ken Johnston said he supports a service that prevents drug deaths “no matter how it unfolds in the community.”

Coun. Buck Buchanan investigated how mobile supervised consumption sites are working out in Kamloops and Kelowna and received mostly positive reports. Among the few negatives are concerns that not all the addicted people are getting to the mobile units, and that some of these “disenfranchised people” are wandering through adjacent neighborhoods.

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