'Safe sobering space' needed in Lethbridge, say front-line workers
City has applied for funding to open a nurse-managed program to medically monitor intoxicated people
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.
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.