Edmonton

Supervised consumption site review panel makes final stop in Edmonton

Edmonton was the final stop for the provincially appointed panel that is reviewing supervised consumption sites around the province.

"'This is a non-partisan issue. This is about, 'Do these people deserve to live?'"

Former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht, far right, with other members of the supervised consumption site review committee. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

To Trent Daley, supervised consumption sites are one of the few measures that can make a difference between life and death for people with substance-use problems.

"I wanted to come here and deliver a message of pure emotion," Daley, a support worker with the George Spady Society, told a government review panel that is examining the impact and value of the sites.

The panel, led by former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht, was in Edmonton on Wednesday night. 

 A few speakers raised concerns, such as an increase in used needles around the facilities and the concentration of sites in central Edmonton.

Trent Daley works to help people who are trying to get clean and get off the street. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

But most were overwhelmingly in support of the program, telling personal stories of how the sites have impacted them. 

Many, like Daley, were front-line workers who regularly deal with vulnerable and at-risk populations. 

"Many people on my caseload, over 90 per cent, have relapsed — ongoing relapses. Relapses are part of recovery," he said.

Daley said the review is concerning. He worries that his clients could be left with no options.

"We're hemorrhaging funds and [we're] desperate to just get these people to a safe place," he said. "To keep them alive and refer them to care that may not be available. For this [review] to go on … it's astounding to me."

There are eight supervised consumption sites in Alberta, including four in Edmonton.

The panel was announced last month by Jason Luan, associate minister for mental health and addiction, following a government decision in June to freeze funding for any new sites until the review could be completed.

The panel's eight members have hosted public sessions in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie, Calgary and Red Deer.

Knecht said he has been pleased with the turnout in the communities and also with the number of online submissions the review panel has received.

"I think we'll probably be close to 20,000 when all is said and done," Knecht said. 

"I'm happy to say we're just not going down one tunnel and hearing one perspective. I think that wouldn't be very valuable."

The panel will also be using statistics supplied by the communities and stakeholders they have spoken with to compile their final report.

After Daley took his three minutes to address the panel, he handed a naloxone kit to Knecht as a closing gesture.

"I noticed on Twitter there was a picture of the kit that had been left behind by this panel with empty seats," Daley said. "So, they had left it behind in Red Deer so I wanted to make sure they got another one."

"This is a non-partisan issue. This is about, 'Do these people deserve to live?'" he added.

The panel will hold its final night of public consultations Thursday at the Edmonton Inn and Conference Centre.

Information and data collected will be processed compiled into a final report expected in December.

About the Author

Tricia Kindleman

Reporter/Producer

Tricia Kindleman has spent her life in Alberta. She grew up in Edmonton and attended Mount Royal College, now university, in Calgary. She has worked in newsrooms in Edmonton and Grande Prairie.

now