VOICING CONCERNS - Christine Harris voices her opinion at the Dec. 19th public hearing on locations for potential supervised consumption sites in Red Deer. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

List of supervised consumption sites narrowed to three

Red Deerians voiced opinions on locations for supervised consumption services

City council has voted to remove three sites in relation to the bylaw they are considering, which include Johnstone Crossing Community Health Centre, Bremner Avenue Community Health Centre and the 49th Street. Community Health Centre.

The removal of the sites was due to concerns from the public on community safety and how it would affect adjacent landowners.

There was an array of opinions at the public hearing Dec. 19th on locations on the six supervised consumption services sites that were listed.

City Hall chambers were packed with residents from every walk of life, from business owners in the community to those who have dealt with the opioid crisis firsthand to others who simply didn’t support a specified site location.

The six sites before council and the public to weigh in on included Turning Point, Safe Harbour, Red Deer Regional Hospital, Johnston Crossing Community Health Centre, Bremner Avenue Community Health Centre and the 49th Street Community Health Centre.

The first speaker to take the stand was Kath Hoffman, executive director at Safe Harbour, who said that Safe Harbour doesn’t have the capacity nor resources to apply for supervised consumption services within their facility.

“There are 256 people standing up here with me although you can’t see them, it would be cruel to subject them to this. Their collective voices are in the extensive survey Turning Point did with them as part of the needs assessment for Red Deer,” she said.

She added that in that survey it was said loud and clear where they wanted that safe consumption site to be, which was Turning Point.

She added that Safe Harbour was clear from the get-go that they did not want to take part in the supervised consumption service as they don’t have the capacity or resources to apply.

Alberta Health Services too, does not intend to apply for supervised consumption services at both the clinics and hospital.

Dr. Michael Mulholland, physician lead of Medically Supported Detox at Safe Harbour agreed with the importance of having a site, referring to not having it at Safe Harbour as he doesn’t want people using drugs around people who don’t want to use them.

“This effects every postal code in this City and we need to do something about it,” said Mulholland.

Resident and business owner Wendy Turcotte, who works with people with substance abuse, said she has worked with her brother who has been a needle addict since he was 12.

She said she brought him to Red Deer from B.C. and agrees that while having a supervised consumption service is a good thing, she feels it enables people to do drugs. “We are just focusing on enabling and giving them the places to go,” she said, adding that she believes in a holistic approach when dealing with addiction.

She added that she helped bring her brother off drugs without using fentanyl or methadone.

“It can be done.”

Earl Bowie also voiced his concerns representing Horizon Village, who opposed the Bremner location. Bowie, who was a Red Deer firefighter for over 30 years, said he has seen firsthand what drugs can do to an individual.

“I have a daughter who was a drug addict and she’s now six months sober,” he said. “I know what the drug addicts can do, we all know what’s happening around Central Alberta with places getting broken into, cars getting stolen, et cetera, and my daughter was one of them.”

He added that he believes the site should be downtown as it’s the best place to handle it.

“I would expect that most of the drug users are downtown,” said Bowie.

Jason Stephan, an owner of a law firm in the Old Courthouse, said he believes a safe injection site should not be downtown and a site is not the best harm reduction. “Provided that if the province insists that Red Deer must have a safe injection site instead of more addiction treatment, it should be at the hospital.”

He said it is the province mandating that Red Deer should have a site therefore it is the Province that should control the mandate on their land.

He believes it to be at the hospital as they have the resources to treat those who overdose.

Christine Harris, a homeowner in downtown Red Deer is also a mother of a son who suffered from the opioid crisis. He passed away five years ago, but from another cause, not from an overdose.

Harris said he was at a treatment centre in Vancouver, which she said was paramount in connecting him with services and resources to the point where he was housed safely.

She added that people are missing the point. While many discussed break-ins, different aspects of the lifestyle, she said they are talking about lives.

“The people that we’re talking about that are going to be utilizing the safe injection site here in Red Deer are family to someone. They are someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, aunt, uncle, sister, brother. These people need the connection and a safe place to be.”

Cassandra Fink, who is an addict herself, supports the need for a supervised consumption service.

“Having a safe injection is really important for somebody like me because I would utilize a place like that,” she said, adding that it would allow her to have a safe and secure place to inject her drugs with health care professionals around to support her.

She believes the site should be at Turning Point, as the people there already have that relationship with the clientele.

The discussion will continue Dec. 20th to finalize discussion of the bylaw around Turning Point, Safe Harbour and the hospital.

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