New location proposed for permanent supervised consumption services

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
October 11, 2018 - 6:03pm

A new site for permanent supervised consumption services will be discussed by Red Deer city council on Monday.

A vacant building at 5233 54 Avenue in the Railyards area, a stone’s throw from Safe Harbour, was recently identified as the top among several potential sites chosen by a working group comprised of The City of Red Deer, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, Safe Harbour and Turning Point.

Council will debate first reading of the proposed rezoning and issuing of a development permit. Once that happens, a public hearing would be held Nov. 13 ahead of final approval.

Turning Point is seeking not only to open SCS at the new location, but to relocate its entire operation out of the downtown.

“We've always maintained that we need to keep all of our services together for a variety of reasons. So if we're not going to be able to operate in our current facility, the goal would be to move all of our services to a new location,” says Stacey Carmichael, Executive Director at Turning Point.

“The permanent site would include more capacity to help folks who are using the service, the ability to provide comprehensive wraparound services from Turning Point and other community agencies, things like housing, mental health supports, cultural supports. There’ll be space for all of that.”

Tara Lodewyk, Director of Planning Services with The City of Red Deer, says there were several criteria the group used to decide which spot would work best.

“We looked at proximity to services for the clients who would be using the site, also things like needing a certain amount of square footage, what type of land uses are adjacent to it, where it’s located in the city, and what would it cost for the service provider to get it up and running,” she says, noting the landowner also gave his blessing.

Last month, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced a temporary overdose prevention site at Safe Harbour.

It opened Oct. 1, nearly nine months after city council decided the grounds of Red Deer Regional Hospital were the only suitable place for permanent SCS. That decision came despite administration’s recommendation that Safe Harbour and Turning Point’s current location would also both be suitable.

In May, council approved two sites (Safe Harbour and the hospital grounds) for a mobile supervised consumption services unit. Following that, the working group was struck.

A study conducted in 2017 by the Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis found that 86 per cent of 258 community members who took part would be willing to use supervised consumption services.

It has been the working group’s mantra over the last several weeks since the temporary overdose prevention site was announced that all participants are committed to finding a permanent solution.

Carmichael says client numbers at the temporary site are increasing steadily and they hope to up the hours from eight per day to 16 over the next couple weeks.

"It's important to note this is an application The City has received and The City has a responsibly to process applications which are received," says Mayor Tara Veer who wouldn't comment on the actual rezoning because it still needs to go to a public hearing.

"Members of our public will have the opportunity to comment, they can submit those comments to council by email, letter, by calling us or by attending the public hearing."

The City says it will be connecting directly with property owners, tenants and businesses near the proposed site to share information, answer questions and hear concerns. All public feedback collected will be incorporated in a report back to city council for consideration.

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