Report on social impacts of injection sites a ‘wake-up call’: Alberta minister

CALGARY — A report says the social impacts of supervised drug consumption sites in Alberta include increased needle debris and a growing risk to public safety in surrounding neighbourhoods.

Associate health minister Jason Luan calls the report a “wake-up call” and says the government will use it to make decisions about the sites on a city-by-city basis.

Luan also says the eight-member review panel heard allegations of “financial irregularities” at Arches, the non-profit agency overseeing the safe consumption site in Lethbridge.

He says auditors went to Arches this week to collect documentation and he’ll have more to say in the coming weeks.

There are currently seven sites in Alberta — in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge — with proposals for one each in Red Deer and Medicine Hat and another one in Calgary.

The government formed the panel last summer to look at how the sites impact crime rates, social order, property values and businesses.

The panel was not asked to look at the benefits of harm reduction for site users.

The review was led by former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht. Other members included an economist, three doctors, a real-estate agent and the mother of a young man who died of an overdose.

The Opposition has criticized the panel as being stacked with advocates of an abstinence-only approach and for failing to include no one from supervised consumption services.

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