Calgary

Lethbridge may ask province to freeze funds for supervised consumption site

Funding for new supervised consumption sites in Alberta is currently frozen while the province completes a review.

But site operator says many concerns based on misinformation

Lethbridge council may ask the province to put funding on hold for the city's supervised consumption site. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Funding for new supervised consumption sites in Alberta is currently frozen while the province completes a review.

While that freeze hasn't impacted sites that are already operating, one Lethbridge city councillor thinks it should.

Council will vote on a motion, brought forward by Coun. Blaine Hyggen, as soon as Aug. 19.

He plans to ask for funding to be withheld for ARCHES, the city's only supervised consumption site, until fall.

"It is not cancelled it is just under review," Hyggen said. 

Hyggen has a number of concerns, including complaints from nearby residents and businesses that needles removed from the site have been found in the community.

The city wants to consult residents before the vote and is planning to host a citizen town hall.

Jill Manning, ARCHES' director of operations, says potential cuts could have a devastating impact.

"Drug uses happening in our facility right now, those will flow into community," Manning said.

More needles being returned than handed out

Needle distribution has reduced by 70 per cent in the last 18 months, and more needles are being returned to the site than are being handed out, according to Manning.

"We're hopeful that over the upcoming weeks and months we are able to do some widespread education efforts so we can dispel some of those myths."

Between Feb. 28, 2018, and July 30, 2019, the site had more than 260,000 visits and responded to more than 2,500 medical emergencies.

It also provides addiction counselling, housing supports and nursing services.

With files from Tahirih Foroozan