'Risk of people dying': Albertans respond to possible changes with supervised consumption sites
A clear divide remains as Albertans prepare for changes that may come to supervised consumption sites
Health professionals and community members in Edmonton are responding to Premier Jason Kenney's announcement that the province could close or relocate some supervised drug consumption sites across Alberta.
"I would worry if those services were curtailed or de-funded that we would see an increased risk of people dying," said Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.
On Tuesday, Kenney said he has seen the preliminary report written last summer by a government panel looking at the impact of the sites. Asked whether he would close any of the seven current sites or halt three proposed new ones, he said: "It certainly is possible that at least some will be relocated. It's never been our intention to shut all of the sites but we're taking a very close look based on the data."
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Crime down near consumption site
The government appointed a panel last summer to look into the social and economic impacts supervised consumption sites have on communities and businesses. While the results have not been released, Kenney said on Tuesday he thinks there's a marked increase in crime and social disorder in the areas around the sites.
However, Hyshka said the sites have not impacted crime "and in some cases, crime is actually decreasing in the immediate vicinity."
Calls for police service dropped 36 per cent near the injection site at Boyle McCauley Health Centre, 10628 96th St., between March 2018, when it opened, and November 2018, said Insp. Dan Jones.
These services are a critical part of the overdose response.- Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at School of Public Health, U of A
But Georgina Fiddler, who lives one block from one of the four consumption sites in Edmonton, said she has noticed much more illegal activity in her neighbourhood.
"[There are] drug deals right out in front of the building, shooting up on the back steps and back alleys," Fiddler said.
She said it's unfair that four of the seven consumption sites in the entire province are located near or in her residential neighbourhood.
"I'm excited and I am glad that they will be moving at least some," Fiddler said. "We do need them, but we need to have at least two moved out of this area, because it's a distressed area."
She said the idea of an injection site in a residential area was "absolutely ridiculous."
Hyshka said research has shown the existing sites in Alberta have seen more than 300,000 visits since they opened, and of those there have been no overdose deaths and more than 4,000 overdoses have been rerversed.
"I do hope that when they consider all of the evidence that they will come to the conclusion that many experts have," Hyshka said. "That these services are a critical part of the overdose response and they they do contribute significantly to saving lives."
Officials from the three supervised consumption sites that opened in March 2018, at Boyle Street Community Services, the George Spady Centre and the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, say they'll wait to see what decision the province makes before they comment.