Calgary

'Safe sobering space' needed in Lethbridge, say front-line workers

Lethbridge opened its first safe consumption site last week, but front-line workers say there is another facility they want in the city to help another underserved population.

City has applied for funding to open a nurse-managed program to medically monitor intoxicated people

Collette Ryostock, manager of the Lethbridge Shelter says a safe sober space would alleviate some of the stresses being felt at the shelter. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Lethbridge, Alta., opened its first safe consumption site last week, but front-line workers say there is another facility they want in the city to help another underserved population.

Collette Ryostock, manager of the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre, said despite being funded as an emergency shelter, they've done double duty as a facility for intoxicated people for so long, they're used to it now.

But the centre isn't set up for that purpose, she said.

"Our staff generally aren't trained medical-wise to look after some of these folks," she said, adding that the shelter only has seven mats available for intoxicated people, and often must use other areas of the shelter when the number of intoxicated clients exceeds that.

Stacey Bourque, director of Lethbridge's drug outreach organization ARCHES, says they know there's a gap in the community when dealing with intoxicated people.

"Something that we're working on in the interim is a safe sobering space for people to be able to come. It's a nurse-managed program so they'll be medically monitored," she said.

Director of ARCHES, Stacey Bourque says the city has applied for funding through Alberta Health to open a safe sober space. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Insp. Tom Ascroft of the Lethbridge Police Service said they have a drunk tank at their correctional centre but in the last few years they've moved away from that model.

"It's not a criminal act per se," he said. "If it's just the case of someone who has an addictions issue and they're passed out outside, sometimes the best place for them to be is not with the police."

Ryostock said she believes the safe sober space will ease some of the shelter's stresses.

"I think I can see it alleviating a lot ot the issues we have here because we have been going from crisis to crisis dealing with overdoses and other drug and alcohol-related issues that it takes away from what our mandate is," she said.

The city has submitted an application to Alberta Health open a safe sobering space, which is waiting for approval.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

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