Safe consumption site back on Red Deer City Council agenda

Though some Red Deer councillors have called a safe consumption site “inevitable,” they will have the chance to regulate where and how it could be built it the city.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Turning Point will make a presentation and provide an update on the progress for a supervised consumption site in Red Deer.

After which, council members will consider a motion from city administration to examine land use and development processes for such a site.

Coun. Ken Johnston said his concern is that the city’s voice isn’t being heard at the provinical or federal level at this point.

“Municipalities have land use bylaws as really the only way they can regulate, in a meaningful way,” said Johnston.

Over the summer, the Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis held nine community events to gather input and has conducted a needs assessment. Council voted on Oct. 2, before the municipal election, to have a “more robust general community consultation” be part of the development process.

“I feel we need to have a much larger community consultation before we do anything and we haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet,” said Coun. Tanya Handley in an email. “I would be more supportive of a safe consumption site if the province was also addressing the need for treatment in our community. We cannot continue to address these issues separately.”

Coun. Vesna Higham wants to advocate for more investment in addictions treatment, but thinks more time and study is warranted to better understand the complex issue of a safe consumption site.

“What we need, and deserve, as a community is the time to consult, to study the data and best practices around the globe, to research the pros and cons, and to make an informed decision,” she said.

Other advocacy positions city council approved include should it proceed, plans should be developed for enhanced prevention and treatment facilities; that the province develop a strategic response to substance abuse to ensure a balance between prevention, harm reduction and community safety with an emphasis on treatment as a priority and that Alberta Health

A poll running on the Advocate website showed that 61.65 per cent of voters said they did not think Red Deer needs a safe injection site, while 33.83 per cent were in favour of one and 4.51 per cent were undecided. A total of 133 votes were cast.

After Red Deer City Hall was closed last week due to the discovery of carefentanil in a washroom, Turning Point executive director Stacey Carmichael said it helps make the case for a safe consumption site. “Thank goodness they caught him and escorted him out and he didn’t end up using carfentanil in the bathroom at city hall because he likely would have overdosed and died.”

Although some Red Deer councillors have expressed concerns with a safe injection site, land use and the development process are some of the primary tools they have to regulate the potential for such a site.

Councillors Dianne Wyntjes, Frank Wong and Johnston have said there’s a need for such a site. “I do think we need one. People are Dying,” Wong previously told the Advocate.

Coun. Buck Buchanan was concerned about whether the public would have enough say about where it’s located.

Coun. Michael Dawe and Mayor Tara Veer have said a safe site is only one part of the equation, Veer supports a four-pronged approach including drug prevention, treatment and community safety.

Coun.Lawrence Lee admitted it is likely needed, but believes more beds at the hospital is a higher priority.

Health Canada approved safe injection sites in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge and is expected to make a decision on a site in Calgary.



mcrawford@reddeeradvocate.com

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