My response: “Numbers show SCS is creating more issues”

The Lethbridge Herald is on a roll this month with all the roasts and letters they’re publishing from people opposed to the local supervised consumption site. I already addressed this week’s roasts, but I thought I’d take a stab at some of the letters.

The Lethbridge Herald is on a roll this month with all the roasts and letters they’re publishing from people opposed to the local supervised consumption site. I already addressed this week’s roasts, but I thought I’d take a stab at some of the letters.

Here’s the first, which you can read here.

We recently heard a report by Dr. Em Pijl, paid for by the City of Lethbridge and presented before council, that supported the concerns voiced by citizens regarding their livelihoods in business being threatened, the quality of life in their neighbourhoods, the concerns of increased crime as well as health risks to the public from needles, fecal matter, urine, etc., and is one very good reason to shut down this site now!

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Except that’s not what her report said. Her study reported on the perception of those things, not on whether they actually occurred.

This site has had a major impact on Lethbridge and now is following along the same negative path as Vancouver DTES since it opened with increases in all areas: more addicts, more homeless, more crime and more fatal overdoses!

It most definitely has had a major impact on Lethbridge. It has reduced public drug usage, reduced needle debris, reduced overdoses, and reduced overall healthcare costs.

Crime has indeed gone up, but Lethbridge is in the middle of a crime wave that started in 2014, long before the SCS opened.

I’d love to see the data that shows homelessness and fatal overdoses have increased since the SCS opened. For example, the crime severity index for 2018 increased by 13.05% over 2017, and while that seems like a lot, it went up by 13.42% in 2015, 15.94% in 2017, and 24.35% in 2014. Since the CSI started rising in 2014, the 2018 rise was the second slowest increase. If the SCS is causing crime to go up, we should see the 2018 CSI increasing dramatically, not slowing.

I’d love to see the data on homelessness in Lethbridge. I have a hard time seeing a connection between an increase in homelessness—assuming there actually has been an increase—and the SCS.

I also have a hard time believing that fatal overdoses have increased since the SCS opened. Over 3,100 medical emergencies occurred at the SCS since it opened, none of which ended in death. If the SCS didn’t exist, there would be more fatal overdoses in Lethbridge, not fewer. The SCS is reducing overdose deaths.

People are dying not just from the overdoses, but from diseases related to homelessness, suicide due to the helplessness and even related violence. People will die, but we choose to follow the same failing model Vancouver uses, beginning in 2003, and fatal ODs, homelessness, crime, number of addicts, etc., all continue to rise! At what point will they realize that their safe injection ideas are a failure? When will Lethbridge realize it?

Let‘s assume you’re right, that people are dying from disease, suicide, and violence. This isn’t caused by the SCS. The SCS actually provides health care services that reduce disease, including testing, wound care, referral to other services, counselling, and support.

People may still die, but fewer will die because the SCS exists. Fewer people will die from drug overdoses, of course, but fewer people will die because of the other mitigation services they provide.

Treatment is the only answer, effective treatment! The best programs in the U.S. force addicts into treatment programs, and it works! They have low failure rates!

Treatment is an answer, but it is not the only answer. Treatment doesn’t work on people who are dead, and the SCS keeps people alive. Keeping people alive is the key to helping them get treatment. We definitely lack treatment services in Lethbridge. We need treatment services to work in conjunction with prevention and harm reduction services.

Forcing people into healthcare services is dangerous territory. Should we force people into certain diets so we can avoid having to pay for diet-related health issues? Should we force diabetic people to take insulin, so we don’t have to treat them for shock? Should we force people with cancer into treatment, so we don’t need to pay for their palliative care? We shouldn’t be deciding what health care people should and should not take.

In a recent Letter to the Editor, a person who volunteered at the SCS for several weeks stated the numbers using the supervised consumption services have ballooned to 1,532, three times what the numbers were when they opened. If it is soooo successful, why have the numbers exploded?

Most institution measure success by increase in clients. It seems to me that the more people there are consuming drugs in the supervised consumption site, the fewer people there are consuming drugs in public. A higher number of clients at the SCS is a good thing.

It is spiritually and morally wrong to enable these addicts to slowly destroy their young minds and bodies, supplying all of their paraphernalia while they need to commit crimes to pay for their addictions.

The SCS doesn’t enable. People who use consumption sites are already addicted. The consumption site doesn’t cause addiction. If the SCS didn’t exist, the people taking drugs in the site now would still be taking drugs. Consumption sites don’t enable addiction, but they do manage addiction by allowing people to reduce infection risk and death risk until they are ready to seek treatment.

Also, it’s not the SCS’s fault that drugs cost so much, nor that some of the people using the drugs can’t afford that cost, nor that some of them have to steal to get money to afford the drugs. Those issues existed prior to 2018, and those issues would still exist if the SCS shut down.

I urge you all to study the Vancouver DTES and B.C. addictions and homelessness issues that have spread from Vancouver to the rest of the province, and read the report from Dr. Pijl.

I concur: read Dr. Pijl’s study. But read it carefully. Realize that it may not be saying what you think it does.

More people will die with this open than there will be if it is closed and they are placed into treatment. This site, in my mind, is increasing the number of addicts in the community and if you think there were issues last year, with this dramatic increase in SCS users, next summer, we will be overrun by addicts! Zero doubt!

This is just false. There are literally fewer people dying. Over 3,100 medical emergencies have occurred at the SCS since it opened, and because medical professionals were on hand, not a single one of those emergencies resulted in death. Had the SCS not been open, some of those people would’ve had died, waiting for someone to come upon them in a park or an alley, for someone to phone 911, and for EMS to arrive. The SCS is preventing deaths.

Nor is the SCS increasing the number of people who are addicted to drugs. They do not provide the drugs. People are already addicted when they come to the SCS.

Again with the ideology over facts.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

4 replies on “My response: “Numbers show SCS is creating more issues””

Thankyou so much. As the rally to support Supervised Consumption Sites will be taking place here in Edmonton Feb 26, I find myself needing new ways to explain the benefits of SCS. You are helping with that .

You’re welcome, Lorna. And I’m glad to hear my research and writing is helping in constructive ways. Good luck next week!

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