LETHBRIDGE -- The operators of Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site are in the process of making big changes following an organizational review initiated by the organization's board of directors.

"I hope that the community sees that ARCHES is trying," said ARCHES president Aaron Fitchett. "We are trying really hard to address concerns. We are trying really hard to listen, and we are trying really hard to make some changes if change is needed."

Fitchett said after delving into the organizational review it became apparent that ARCHES needed to facilitate big change, while working towards goals that take into consideration the community as a whole.

In March, the provincial government launched an audit of the ARCHES-run supervised consumption site after a government review committee concluded the Lethbridge site may be facing the most problems on any site in Alberta, and operating at a higher cost.

The board of directors took steps to search for a third-party company to conduct the organizational review and in mid-May secured the services of Mandy DeCecco-Kolebaba, owner and consultant of Collaborative Strategies.

"We also decided to move quite quickly with not only reviewing what was happening, but implementing the changes," said DeCecco-Kolebaba.

She said some things were being done really well, including the client care services and wrap around programs. DeCecco-Kolebaba said there were other things that weren’t being done so well, but there were options for huge improvement that have already been put in place.

"We have started to clean the inside and outside of the organization," she added.

The board identified the following actions for immediate change:

  • A new streamlined organizational structure with extensive operational oversight
  • Implementation of new board recruitment strategies and policies
  • Improved ‘Good Neighbour’ policies working to improve the look, safety, debris and impact of the supervised consumption site
  • Improved collaboration with Lethbridge police and EMS
  • Ensuring a consistent and responsible compensation policy that is in line with similar organizations in terms of size, structure, and feasibility
  • Enhanced financial oversight
  • Recommitment to the original harm reduction strategies
  • Renewed focus on all other areas of current programming
  • Appropriate and professional communication policies involving the public, media, government officials, and partners.

Additionally, ARCHES said it is looking toward future change that will include:

  • An in-house policy for program participation
  • Further inclusion and/or partnerships in education and treatment programming
  • Transparent management structures
  • Improved statistical accuracy
  • Improved City of Lethbridge & provincial government relations
  • Appropriate staffing compliments
  • Advancing the organization’s core competencies
  • Internal mental health supports for staff
  • Appropriate OH&S policy, procedures and programs
  • Improved internal policies and procedures.

Opportunity for growth

DeCecco-Kolebaba said there is an opportunity for huge growth with community relations.

Fitchett said ARCHES has many successful programs that operate separately from the supervised consumption site and it’s important to highlight the work of those teams.

He acknowledged that the last two years of extreme change, growth and program development has at times cast a shadow over everything else, but believes the new organizational structure will ensure that doesn’t happen in the future.

Fitchett said the board knows that it has some work to do, but is diving in and making significant decisions and changes daily. He is hoping people don’t give up on ARCHES.

"We are dedicated to making a difference with our vulnerable populations and being responsible community members."