Saturday, May 21, 2022
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Alberta government may close or relocate supervised consumption sites

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Premier Jason Kenney says it’s possible Alberta could close or relocate some supervised drug consumption sites (SCS).

The United Conservative government struck a panel last summer to look at the impact of the sites on crime rates, social order, property values and businesses. It has not considered harm reduction, establishing new sites, provincial funding or housing.

Kenney saying Tuesday that he’s seen the panel’s preliminary report.

He notes that it’s possible at least some of Alberta’s seven current supervised consumption sites could be relocated. Kenney also adds that it was never the government’s intention to shut down all of the sites, but it is taking a very close look based on the data in the report.

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Lethbridge West New Democrat MLA Shannon Phillips tells our radio station if the local SCS, which statistics show is the most heavily-used facility of its kind in North America was closed down, it would result in users back on the streets. “That will mean more disorder for our downtown, more law enforcement issues, and ultimately more deaths. I don’t think Jason Kenney actually cares about that.”

Earlier this week, Lethbridge City Council received a study on urban social issues from the University of Lethbridge showing a marked increase in antisocial behaviours and social disorder downtown since the opening of the SCS.

Meanwhile, on his Facebook page, Lethbridge East UCP MLA Nathan Neudorf referenced an article in a Calgary newspaper saying he’s “looking forward to the SCS Review Panel report in the coming weeks”. A few months back, Neudorf was very clear saying he feels Lethbridge needs a four pillar approach to tackling the local drug crisis. “How that is done will involve all four legs of a drug treatment strategy which includes prevention, harm reduction (SCS) , enforcement, and treatment”. Neudorf was also hopeful any strategies moving forward by his UCP government to help get people off the cycle of addiction would include Lethbridge.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman tells us he hopes the UCP government takes a holistic view of this whole drug and addiction issue. “Closing the SCS will just mean drug use will be spread through the community . For five years the City of Lethbridge has advocated heavily for provincially-provided services for intox, detox, supportive housing and long-term treatment and recovery. In the absence of those services, our drug and crime issues are not going away.”

As for maybe relocating the Supervised Consumption Site, the Mayor says that would mean Council would have to deal with zoning and location issues, noting wherever it would go, a public hearing on this would be contentious. “We want to work with the provincial government. The community has been divided on the SCS. We would like the two sides, in the end, to become united and we want to make sure we get those other services.”

(Story with files from the Canadian Press)

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