Opinion: Red Deer supervised drug consumption site should be just the beginning

Opinion: Red Deer supervised drug consumption site should be just the beginning

By David Marsden

The provincial government’s decision to review funding for new supervised drug consumption sites will have some people rolling their eyes.

There’s no question Alberta is in the midst of an opioid crisis that killed a record-breaking 746 people last year. The number of fatal fentanyl overdoses in Red Deer alone doubled in 2018, rising from 23 to 47.

Premier Jason Kenney is living up to his campaign commitment to study the success of such facilities, and quite rightly, those who advocate on behalf of Albertans with addictions worry what the outcome of the deliberations will be. Given Kenney’s not-so-subtle criticism of drug consumption sites, the suspicions aren’t without foundation.

Still, it’s not unusual for a new government to second-guess the decisions of its predecessor. The cancellation of the carbon levy and a reduction in corporate taxes are just two examples of how Kenney’s priorities differ from those of the NDP, which lost the April 16 election.

It would have been easier for Kenney to let the new sites open as planned and remain focused on more pressing matters, such as Alberta’s lacklustre economy. Having pushed the pause button, Kenney will be held accountable for any changes in the way supervised drug consumption sites operate.

Mayor Tara Veer looks on the bright side, pointing out the review is an opportunity for Red Deer to seek remedies for the site’s shortcomings. The city continues to be distressed by the number of used needles that are strewn throughout downtown, and nearby business owners complain clinic visitors discourage shoppers. A provincial review of the sites should strive to resolve these matters.

The city receives $80,000 a year for needle cleanup, but that’s far less money than is required to deal with a problem of the province’s creation.

This is the perfect time to ensure collecting carelessly discarded needles isn’t an onerous financial burden to city taxpayers, nor an unnecessary public health hazard.

The study might also find that rather than having a single site in the city, two locations would better serve the public. Such a change would reduce the volume of clients being handled at a single site, and provide access to service to people outside the city’s core.

It’s also worth taking stock of what the mandate of the sites should be. Yes, it’s certainly better that addicts use clean needles rather than dirty ones, and swallow pills while being supervised, but in itself, that’s not enough.

The assumption should be that clients are striving to get clean. The afflicted can’t be addiction free if they’re not breathing, but neither should the sites simply offer free needles and a comfy place to use streets drugs.

The sites must be part of a group of resources. If there’s a lack of assistance and treatment that would help drug users shed their addiction over time, that’s worth discovering.

Red Deer has pleaded for a drug treatment centre for years. Having willingly taken on the task of reviewing the best methods of addressing addiction, the Kenney government must commit to funding a treatment centre in the city — a facility that doesn’t simply reduce the risk of death, but makes lives whole again.

That would be best outcome of the government’s self-imposed study.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trail RCMP report three impaired driving investigations. Photo: Black Press file
New drunk driving rules allow police to impose tougher penalties immediately

New impaired driving regulations started on Tuesday

(Lacombe Express file photo)
Lacombe County holds the line on taxes

Staff hiring freeze planned for 2021 to make up for lost oil and gas revenue

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.  (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta premier says hospitals stressed by COVID-19, more surgeries may be cancelled

EDMONTON — Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta’s largest hospitals are at 91… Continue reading

A cleaner wipes a glass panel at Toronto's Eaton Centre Shopping mall on Saturday, March 21, 2020. The national statistics office will say this morning how much the domestic economy bounced back in the third quarter of the year. The Canadian economy suffered its worst three-month stretch on record in the second quarter as the economy came to a near halt in April before starting to recover in May and June. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Statistics Canada says economy grew at a record pace in third quarter of 2020

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the economy grew at a record annualized… Continue reading

Bill C-4 passed in the House of Commons to authorize new benefits for workers left jobless or underemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Tory MPs keep talking on assisted dying bill as clock ticks down to Dec. 18 deadline

OTTAWA — Conservative MPs are refusing to be rushed into a vote… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

(Black Press File Photo)
Rimbey woman gathering Christmas gifts for seniors at Valleyview Manor

Margaret Tanasiuk says she doesn’t want anyone to feel forgotten on Christmas morning

Mike Miltimore, seen in Kamloops, B.C., in an undated handout photo, says the Gretsch electric guitar that a woman brought into his store is from 1955 and similar to one played by country music legend Chet Atkins before he developed his signature series of guitars. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Mike Miltimore
Guitar made in 1950s worth more than B.C. family imagined

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — When Renee Latheur decided to take an old guitar… Continue reading

Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel crashed while leading near the end. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Hamilton positive for COVID-19, will miss F1’s Sakhir GP

SAKHIR, Bahrain — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive… Continue reading

In this Dec. 19, 2019 file photo, the advertising label of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, shines at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Leaders of the OPEC cartel are meeting virtually to decide how much oil their countries should produce as the coronavirus stifles demand for fuel. They’re expected to extend production cuts into the new year in an effort to boost prices. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)
OPEC talks on production hit snag as pandemic clouds outlook

FRANKFURT — The OPEC oil producers’ cartel was to push ahead with… Continue reading

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. The Vancouver Whitecaps are hanging on to several of their young players and continuing contract talks with two veterans, including Montero. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Steve Dipaola
Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

Toronto FC forward Pablo Piatti (7) cuts past Vancouver Whitecaps defender Ali Adnan (53) during first half MLS Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto on Friday, August 21, 2020. Barring a new agreement, Toronto FC is parting ways with designated player Pablo Piatti. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto FC looks for new designated player, opts not to pick up Piatti option

Toronto FC looks for new designated player, opts not to pick up Piatti option

Hamilton Forge FC players celebrate their win over CD Olimpia's during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 action in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. After a season that has taken it from Hamilton to Charlottetown, El Salvador and Panama, Forge FC hopes the Dominican Republic is the last stop on the way to the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC just one win away from booking ticket to CONCACAF Champions League

Forge FC just one win away from booking ticket to CONCACAF Champions League

A police officer patrols near the Olympic Symbol being transported on a barge in the Odaiba section Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Tokyo. The five Olympic rings are back in Tokyo Bay. They were removed for maintenance four months ago shortly after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Olympic rings back in Tokyo Bay; a sign of hope in pandemic

Olympic rings back in Tokyo Bay; a sign of hope in pandemic

Most Read