David Marsden: Drug addicts deserve our care

The provincial government, rather than seizing an opportunity, is flirting with putting the lives of Red Deerians at risk.

We’re not just talking about its refusal to provide necessary funds for the expansion of our hospital. We are talking about its dithering over establishing a safe consumption drug site, where our neighbours, some suffering from addictions, can consume drugs under caring supervision.

Premier Jason Kenney has said a provincial review has confirmed suspicions that the facilities are associated with worrisome behaviour, such as crime and vandalism. He has said the government is considering relocating or closing some of the sites.

“It underscores the concerns that we have had about the negative impact on people and on communities as a result of at least some of the drug injection sites,” said Kenney, referring to the report he received in December, but has not released.

“They’re now more than injections … they’re just illegal drug sites. I think we see pretty much everywhere a marked increase in crime in the area of those sites and social disorder and negative human consequences.”

Gosh, it must be nice to be the premier. He appears to have no human failings whatsoever. Well, maybe arrogance.

When he talks of “negative human consequences” he dismisses powerful, destructive addictions that can, and do, take lives.

In December alone, there were 5,076 visits to the current overdose prevention site in Red Deer operated by the Turning Point Society of Central Alberta.

If the site didn’t exist, clients would be consuming drugs on the streets, without observation. There would be more complaints of lawlessness and property damage than there are today. There would be more used needles strewn throughout the city.

There would be more deaths.

If Kenney cares for Albertans, he will not only ensure there’s funding for the existing sites in the province, he’ll create more of them.

The problem with having so few sites is that they can indeed become a magnet for mischief. Having a greater number of them would serve more people and reduce the likelihood of concentrating troublesome behaviour in a few locations in the province.

If Kenney cares for Albertans, he will provide additional resources to assist those who suffer from addictions to become drug free, as they’re able. We require an addictions treatment centre in this city to provide the fulsome support necessary to beat this illness.

This is where the opportunity is presented. Instead of viewing the sites as an enabler of illegal activity, they should be embraced as an opportunity to make Albertans well. Many Albertans, after all, succumb to drug addiction simply because they were prescribed the substances for chronic pain or events of trauma.

We would never blame a Red Deer resident for slipping on the ice and seeking treatment for a broken leg. Why would we then question treatment for someone suffering from addiction to opioids?

The time for moral posturing has long past. This government needs to support safe consumption drug sites for those who need them.

I’m sorry, Jason Kenney, if we don’t live up to your expectations, but it’s who we are. We’re human. And we demand that you be too.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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