The executive director of Turning Point says she’s “a bit disappointed” in the composition of a panel set to review the impacts safe consumption sites have on Alberta communities.
“It doesn’t have representation from a supervised consumption service or harm-reduction organization. That’s a bit concerning,” said Stacey Carmichael.
“I also question what other health issue is viewed through a business lens.”
Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, said on Monday the panel that will examine the social and economic impacts for drugs users will not consider the health benefits of such sites or social issues surrounding drug abuse.
“The existing government already has a wealth of information supporting the merits of supervised consumption sites. The community side of impact seems to be left out,” Luan said.
Heather Sweet, the Alberta NDP opposition’s critic for mental health and addictions, called it a rigged panel that will pave the way toward closing or moving such sites.
Carmichael said the review isn’t a surprise for Turning Point because it was part of the United Conservative Party’s election platform.
“They’ve changed it a little bit, in that they were going to look at the existing sites differently from the proposed sites, but now I think they’ll put them all together in the same review process.
“I believe in the sites and I believe in the good that they do. Hopefully the panel will see that as well,” she said.
There are currently seven sites in Alberta — in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge — with proposals for one in Red Deer, Medicine Hat and another in Calgary.
Carmichael said many people have concerns over things like needle debris.
“The overdose prevention site and subsequent supervised consumption service will and do make a big difference in that issue.
“Things folks are concerned about, these services are an answer for. It would be terrible (for Red Deer to not have an overdose prevention site),” she said.
It’s important the review panel focuses on the “the right information, rather than simply opinions.
“We’ll see how it all plays out. We do have a lot of support, so I anticipate when they do come to Red Deer we’ll hear from both sides,” she said.
–With files from The Canadian Press