A harm reduction agency that is preparing to open a supervised drug consumption site in Red Deer says it isn’t enabling substance use.
Red Deer council gave final approval for the site at 5233 54th Ave. on Monday.
“It’s been a long, difficult haul for everybody – council, our clients, our staff,” said Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point, the operator of the site.
Carmichael said some people believe services such as supervised drug consumption sites encourage drug use.
“That’s like saying if we built a bigger hospital, there would be an increase in sick people.
“People will use substances whether we’re around or not. We acknowledge that and try to make it as safe as possible for everybody. We’re not enabling, we’re not making the substance use issue worse. We’re actually saving lives while people get ready for treatment,” she said.
Red Deer has the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in Alberta, said Carmichael.
The business licence approval comes with several requirements that must be met, including daily outside inspections and clean up, video surveillance and a plan to address emergency, medical and security concerns.
Carmichael said these requirements won’t change plans too much, because they were already being considered.
“We actually do have a lot of those things in place, even in our temporary overdose prevention site. There wasn’t anything too surprising.
“If we can make folks feel better, and the community feel safer, then we’re totally willing to do that,” she said.
Carmichael said she hopes Turning Point takes possession of the building right away to begin renovations.
“I’m not sure how long it will be (until the site is open), to be honest. But the sooner we can get rolling … the better,” she said.
“We want to create a welcoming, clean, safe environment for staff and clients.”
Carmichael said the site will provide “wraparound services.” Turning Point recently met with Alberta Health Services to discuss formalizing relationships for those services. The site will also provide showers, washers and dryers.
Turning Point plans to relocate all its services to the site.
The project was first proposed in August 2017. The development permit for the site is subject to a seven-year sunset clause, which means the permit expires in 2025. The operator will have to come before council again for a new permit.