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Province looking for public input on supervised consumption services sites
Published Wednesday, June 14, 2017 6:05AM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 14, 2017 6:43PM MDT
In an attempt to cut down on the hundreds of Albertans who die every year from opioid overdoses, the province and city are working towards creating supervised consumption services in many communities starting with Calgary and Edmonton.
On Wednesday morning, the province said that supervised consumption services are planned for the Sheldon Chumir Centre in Calgary as well as four other centres in Edmonton.
The sites would allow addicts to use drugs in a controlled environment with access to medical attention and equipment if something goes wrong.
Officials say they chose the Shldon M. Chumir Health Centre because staff understand the impact of the opioid crisis and have the services already available to help addicts.
"This city has been hard hit by the mounting rate of opioid deaths," said Brandy Payne, Alberta's Associate Minister of Health. "Our first priority must be to keep Albertans alive. Harm reduction programs are important tools to keep people safe."
Payne says that the government recognizes that substance abuse is not a choice and must provide a range of supports for those affected.
She says the services understand that the individuals will continue to do drugs but will provide treatment services and counselling when the clients are open to receiving help.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the need for these types of centres is urgent and immediate.
"When it comes to people's lives, we needed these solutions yesterday," he said. "We have to help people stay alive and we have to help people get better and we have to do that while preventing people from starting and while choking off supply. All of these things need to be working together in an integrated way."
Nenshi says the supervised consumption services work to save lives.
"They do that without increasing drug use and without increasing crime in the communities in which they operate."
He wishes that these types of facilities weren't required, but he also knows that Calgary is a community.
"These are human beings; they are our neighbours, they are our fellow citizens. Our number one job in our community is to keep people alive and to keep them safe and we have to do it. We have to do it as part of a multi-prong strategy; we need to work on enforcement, we need to work on prevention and we desperately need to work on treatment but we also need to keep people alive. It reminds us that there's no treatment if you're dead."
"Arresting somebody and putting them in jail simply because they are an addict is continuing the process of addiction," said CPS Chief Roger Chaffin.
Chaffin says the clinic is the first way authorities have to get to know addicts and make sure they are there to help navigate them through the difficult process.
"These people suffer from so many other issues, from homelessness, to mental health, criminal behaviours, dysfunction in the home. Here is our chance to meet them in a safe setting, in a clinical setting so we can help start moving them through that process."
Calls for these services have been discussed for a while with a committee, named the ‘Calgary Coalition on Supervised Consumption’ studying the issue.
It consulted with the city, police, Alberta Health Services, community organizations and drug users.
Earlier this year, on the National Day of Action on Opioid Deaths, protesters in Calgary demanded more programs for harm reduction from drug use.
Statistics show that the risk of opioids is real, as 363 Albertans died of fentanyl overdoses in 2016.
In the first quarter of 2017, 113 people died in the province, with Calgary attributed with the majority (51) of those.
Now, the province will be engaging in a public consultation process over the proposal, where Calgarians will be asked about their opinion and public information meetings will be in place starting at the end of the month,
The province wants to have the site operational by the end of the year.