UCP to close Calgary’s only supervised consumption site –

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UCP to close Calgary’s only supervised consumption site – fr


An AHS employee who worked at the Safeworks Calgary site said its closure will further harm vulnerable people, who are already at the mercy of ‘failed’ government policy to prevent overdose deaths

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The Government of Alberta has announced that it will close the central supervised drug use site in Calgary as part of a larger plan to overhaul existing harm reduction services across the province.

A plan to shut down the Safeworks site, inside the Sheldon M. Chumir health center, and replace it with two more in the city was approved at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Justin Marshall, press secretary to the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions of Alberta, confirmed that the government is “relocating” the existing site and its services.

“We will move the existing supervised consumption site, which has been very disruptive to the neighborhood, and instead add SCS (supervised consumption services) capabilities within the facilities of two existing partner organizations located in more appropriate locations”, Marshall in a statement Thursday.

He declined to provide details, including the identity of community partners or when Safeworks was shut down.

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The Beltline site receives more visits than any other in Alberta, not counting ARCHES in Lethbridge, which closed after UCP withdrew its funding last July over allegations of financial misconduct. Last year, 53,725 people used the Safeworks site, where customers can use substances under the supervision of staff trained to reverse overdoses.

The impending shutdown comes as the overdose crisis escalates in the province.

Alberta marked its deadliest year on record in 2020 with 1,144 opioid-related deaths, an 83% increase from the previous year. The numbers continue to rise, with 228 drug-related deaths in the first two months of 2021 alone, including 70 in Calgary.

The broader government plan, described in documents obtained by Postmedia, also includes changes to existing sites in Edmonton, Grande Prairie and Red Deer.

An AHS employee with experience working at the Safeworks Calgary site said its closure would further harm vulnerable people, who are already at the mercy of “failed” government policy to prevent overdose deaths.

“It’s going to kill people. This will lead to parking lots, back alleys and bathroom overdose deaths, ”said the man, whom Postmedia agreed not to identify.

The Safeworks supervised consumption site at Sheldon M. Chumir Health Center is featured in Calgary on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Photo de Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

He said many customers will not switch to services elsewhere because the relationships and trust they built on the old site will be lost.

“People who live in the addiction world with mental health issues and are homeless, the first thing to do is to build trust. If you close this (site), you cut that ribbon of trust, ”he said.

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“How many times has this ribbon of trust been broken with our customers? And how many times do you expect them to show up in the trough thinking, “oh, this time I know you’re not going to do this?” ”

In Edmonton, the government plans to “decentralize” sites, according to the documents. Only two of the original three sites remain after the Boyle Street downtown community services announced they would cease operations at the end of April. Three men were found dead of suspected overdoses in a central park, which harm reduction advocates have linked to the shutdown.

There is no defined plan for the overdose prevention site in Red Deer. The document says the province “will reassess the need for services once a recovery community is established.” UCP has committed $ 5 million to build a 75-bed addiction treatment center in the city.

In Grande Prairie, the government will move the drug use site to the Rotary House homeless shelter. The municipality faces the highest overdose death rate in Alberta at 55.1 per 100,000 population, compared to the provincial average of 31.6 according to the latest provincial data.

“Our principled approach will continue to provide services while protecting the safety of the community,” said Marshall. “Our government is committed to providing a high quality, easily accessible mental health and addictions care system that includes a full continuum of supports, including harm reduction services.

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The last provincial budget provided $ 15.7 million to fund five supervised drug use sites and three overdose prevention sites in Alberta. Marshall said there would be “increases” in funding to support the changes, but did not provide details.

Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, said the uprooting of existing supervised consumption sites in the province “defies logic” as Alberta battles an the highest overdose death rates in the country.

“Alberta is really going against a national trend here where we are seeing SCS (supervised consumption services) rolling out across the country,” she said. “If anything, we need to keep all the SCSs we have and create new ones to support other parts of our cities and province that could benefit from these vital interventions.

Hyshka said the province’s safe drug use sites were set up after careful consideration and a consultation process under the former NDP government. The study included an analysis of the location of overdose deaths, discarded drug accessories, and EMS service calls, with input from service providers and responders.

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“A massive rejection of this work is truly unfortunate, as health systems planning requires evidence and a thoughtful and committed process,” Hyshka said.

The UCP released a damning report – with disputed conclusions – on the socio-economic effect of supervised consumption services in March of last year. It has been widely criticized by academics, scientists and health care experts.

The intent of the document was to guide decision-making on the future of existing and future supervised drug use sites in Alberta, although it is not clear what role it played in the government’s new strategy.

In March, a spokesperson for the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions said there was “no update” on plans for the province when asked about the report.

The Safeworks supervised consumption site at Sheldon M. Chumir Health Center is featured in Calgary on Thursday, May 27, 2021.
The Safeworks supervised consumption site at Sheldon M. Chumir Health Center is featured in Calgary on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Photo de Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

Lori Sigurdson, NDP mental health and addictions critic, said the government’s response to the devastating overdose crisis is a “tragic failure.”

“The UCP really just has their hands over their eyes. They are blind in their decision making, ”Sigurdson said. “We know four people die from overdoses every day and we know these supervised consumption sites save lives, so the government is making a huge mistake.”

After three recent deaths in Edmonton and the rising overdose rate in Lethbridge following the closure of its supervised consumption site, which was the busiest in North America, Sigurdson said she was “absolutely” certain the move would result. additional deaths.

“The move to treatment beds and this ‘recovery model’ as they call it is just one part,” she said.

“But the harm reduction model, which includes safe consumption sites, is so important. We need to support people where they are and that is what safe consumption sites do. “

[email protected]

Twitter: @alanna_smithh



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