A local tax lawyer says he’s concerned as a citizen about how the province may be handling the potential opening of a safe consumption site in Red Deer.
In a letter to Red Deer MLAs Barb Miller and Kim Schreiner, as well as to Premier Rachel Notley, Jason Stephan expresses his concern that the Alberta Government could be pushing safe consumption for Red Deer forward without ‘meaningful consultation.’
“Individuals can have honest disagreements as to whether scarce taxpayer dollars (you are running billion dollar deficits) should be prioritized for either assisting those who wish to live in their addictions or empowering those who wish to free themselves from their addictions through community supported addiction treatment programs,” he writes.
Stephan, who is President of the Red Deer Taxpayers' Association, goes on to say the new city council was elected to represent the needs of families and businesses in our city, thus the government must fully take into account the thoughts of Red Deer’s elected officials and its residents.
In a separate conversation with Stephan, he says he’s aware there were consultations hosted in August by the Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis, but says at least one city councillor told him those public meetings weren’t meaningful enough. He also claims attendance was capped for the seven sessions.
Stacey Carmichael, Executive Director at Turning Point, confirms the nine scheduled sessions were capped at about 20, but notes almost none of them reached that limit, and that two were cancelled due to zero turnout. She also says Turning Point/the coalition was and still is willing to hold private information or consultation sessions with any group or organization that wants one.
A strong proponent for supervised consumption, Carmichael admits Red Deer also needs a treatment centre, but says supervised consumption services are proven to save lives and get people back on track when they relapse. More consultations will happen in the coming weeks, she adds. Carmichael will also be presenting informaton to city council at their meeting on November 14.
In a statement to rdnewsNOW, Red Deer – South MLA Barb Miller says she has met with many Red Deer families who have lost a loved one to a preventable opioid overdose. She adds in almost every case, the family member who died did so alone.
“The evidence is clear that supervised consumption services save lives and provide a route into treatment. They also reduce drug use in public places and reduce the amount of needle debris we find in our parks, alleys, and other public areas,” she says.
“The provincial government has secured federal approval for these services in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge. In each case, this process was supported by local government, law enforcement and residents. “
Miller says Red Deer is at a much earlier stage in the process and that a needs assessment done by the coalition and Turning Point is currently being reviewed by the province. If there is a compelling case for supervised consumption, she says, it will be shared with residents, businesses, city council and law enforcement before any decisions are made.
“Community consultation is required by law to secure federal approval for these services,” Miller points out. “I welcome a thoughtful conversation on how we can best help our friends and neighbours - and their families - affected by the opioid crisis.”
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