The extensive consultations of the SCS: a history

I don’t understand how opponents of the supervised consumption site can say there wasn’t enough consultation prior to the it opening.

I don’t understand how opponents of the supervised consumption site can say there wasn’t enough consultation prior to the it opening.

Over a year before the SCS opened, the following 16 organizations got together and formed the Coalition on Opioid Use.

  • Alberta Health Services
  • Alberta Children’s Services
  • Alberta Justice and Solicitor General
  • Canadian Mental Association
  • City of Lethbridge
  • Holy Spirit Catholic Schools
  • Lethbridge College
  • Downtown Lethbridge BRZ
  • Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services
  • Lethbridge Police Service
  • Lethbridge Public Library
  • Lethbridge School District #51
  • Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Centre
  • Social Housing In Action
  • University of Lethbridge

The coalition met monthly. They also formed 6 working groups—harm reduction, prevention/education, treatment/outreach, communications, care/support, and research/evaluation—which met outside of the monthly meetings.

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In May 2017, coalition representatives from Alberta Health Services, Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services, Lethbridge Police Service, and ARCHES presented their 6-month progress. Council was made aware of the increasing crime, increasing overdoses, and increasing addiction rates, and the coalition was in the process of a preliminary community needs assessment to determine whether a supervised consumption site with comprehensive in-house support services would be an effective way to deal with the crisis’s effect in Lethbridge.

As part of that needs assessment, the coalition conducted a feasibility study with 25 key leaders in the community. They also held targeted information sessions with community and service groups, faith communities, and business collectives. In addition, they hosted several information sessions for the following groups:

  • City of Lethbridge mayor and council (on 2 occasions)
  • Lethbridge Police Service (130 officers during 8 role call training in-services)
  • Member of Parliament, Rachel Harder
  • Original Lethbridge Better Business Breakfast Club
  • The Rotary Club of Lethbridge
  • Associate Minister of Health, Brandy Payne
  • City of Lethbridge, Planning and Development
  • Methadone clinics
  • Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services (50 personnel during 4 training in-services)
  • Alberta Community Corrections (10 probation officers)
  • Local print, radio, and television media

Finally, they also conducted a drug use and health survey with over 200 people who use drugs.

The following month, the 16-member coalition finished the needs assessment, which included studying community addiction strategies from multiple countries. The assessment concluded that Lethbridge could benefit from a supervised consumption site. Also in June, the coalition held stakeholder sessions with law enforcement, emergency medical responders, corrections, and others.

In July, they hosted 9 community discussion sessions for the broader Lethbridge public at the following locations:

  • Crossings Library Branch (twice)
  • Lethbridge College (twice)
  • Alberta Health Services (three times)
  • City Hall
  • Boys & Girls Club

Over 100 people attended the community session and had opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

Concurrently with the stakeholder and community sessions, the coalition posted an online survey, open to the public, keeping it up for about a month to receive feedback on a potential supervised consumption site. A link was provided on the city website, on ARCHES Facebook page, through ARCHES mailing list, and pamphlets left at the community discussions sessions and handed out on the street by ARCHES staff and volunteers; plus various people, groups, and organizations shared the link to the survey on social media. Over 220 people responded. They also publicized an email address where people could send their feedback.

With the assessment complete and significant community consultation, the coalition proceeded to the application stage, and ARCHES applied to Health Canada on the coalition’s behalf at the end of July. As part of the application process, the coalition posted an ad in the Lethbridge Herald, which was required by Health Canada, to which people could submit feedback.

What else do opponents of the supervised consumption site think the coalition should have done?

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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.

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