Both Turning Point and Alberta Health Services are sharing their disappointment with city council’s decision to eliminate Turning Point's downtown location from consideration as a Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) site in Red Deer.
Council instead designated Red Deer Regional Hospital as their preferred site following a special meeting held earlier this week.
In an open letter, Turning Point executive director Stacey Carmichael and board chair Kailynn Milgate say they have no plans to offer SCS at the hospital.
"We will not propose to operate a SCS that is not based in best practice," the letter reads.
They say council's decision “has created a myriad of issues not only for us at Turning Point but for the entire community.”
In their letter, Turning Point says council’s desire to address the concerns of downtown businesses, including crime and debris, by keeping SCS out of the area is counterproductive.
“This argument is not evidence based and, in fact, global research spanning decades has consistently demonstrated that SCS not only saves lives but reduces crime, public disorder, public injection and discarded syringes in the areas where they operate,” the letter reads. “Things will remain the same; perhaps get worse.”
Turning Point also says allowing SCS at their location would have led to substantial site improvements inside and out. They say the mobile unit council is interested in would not provide the same benefits as a fixed site.
The harm reduction agency says their clients who currently use drugs will continue without a safe place to do so. They feel the impact of the opioid crisis will continue to worsen.
Turning Point says they will continue to work with the Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis, their provincial counterparts, clients, Alberta Health, Alberta Heath Services and various other community partners, including the City of Red Deer, to determine their next steps.
“For now Turning Point will continue to be here, doing what we do and trying the best we can," the letter concludes.
Meantime, in an open letter of their own Alberta Health Services says they support having a SCS in Red Deer, but not at one of its facilities.
“Because of that, AHS is not planning to submit an application to offer supervised consumption services at our health facilities in Red Deer,” says Kerry Bales, Chief Zone Officer for Alberta Health Services Central Zone. “We have shared this position with the City of Red Deer, and we look forward to continued conversations on where to locate a SCS for the benefit of all.”
Bales says the location of SCS is critical to its success in reducing opioid-related deaths.
“Locating an SCS away from the individuals who need the service makes it inaccessible – substance users are not going to use public transportation or travel long distances in order to access this service,” he says. “We need to come to them.”
Since 2016, AHS says it has opened or expanded services including a rural opioid dependency clinic in Central Alberta.
Alberta saw 241 deaths related to opioids in the first half of 2017.
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