Several people packed in a conference room at the Coast Hotel over two days this week. Photo credit to Tom McMillan, Government of Alberta Communications
Hundreds of people showed up over two days this week to public engagement sessions in Lethbridge aimed at gathering feedback on supervised consumption sites (SCS).
The hearings, set up by the new United Conservative government, heard passionate pleas both for and against the controversial facilities. Lethbridge has one of the most heavily-used sites in the world.
Review Panel Chair, former Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht tells MyLethbridgeNow.com they’ve already received a tonne of information in a very short period of time.
“We’ve gotten some really good suggestions. Some ways to deal with the issue, some ways to solve the issue, some ways to work toward a better way to deal with the situation. Hopefully we will be able to provide that information back to Lethbridge and make it as safe a community as possible,” says Knecht
The panel is holding these sessions in communities across Alberta which either have an existing SCS or a proposed facility. The aim is to gather as much feedback from residents, business owners, and local officials regarding crime rates, needle debris, complaints of social disorder, property values, and business impacts, as well as overdose reversals and proposed solutions to address impacts of the sites.
Knecht says one thing they’ve heard from people on all sides of this issue is the need for more wraparound supports. “We need places beyond just a supervised injection site. These people need help. They need help with prevention, education, intervention, and enforcement as well.”
Knecht also says the numbers of people submitting their thoughts on the issue, using the online forms, has been “very significant.”
He notes that’s higher than what the panel anticipated. “There’s definitely a pile of interest on this issue, not just here in Lethbridge, but across the province. We are going to have a lot of information to go through.”
Knecht say once they go through all the info, likely in October, a report could come back to the provincial government either in late November or early December.