City Council is inviting community members to take part in consultation sessions in early October to share their perspectives and collaborate on solutions that would form part of a community-based drug strategy.
A total of four facilitated sessions will be held October 10 and 11 where stakeholders, business people and any other interested community members can discuss how the drug crisis is affecting them. Participants will also be asked to share ideas and collaborate on constructive solutions to deal with negative effects of the drug crisis.
These sessions will comprise the first of three phases of consultation, and community members are invited to choose from the four sessions offered:
- Wednesday, October 10, 1-3:30 p.m. or 5:30-8 p.m.
Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge (320 Scenic Drive South)
- Thursday, October 11, 1-3:30 p.m. or 5:30-8 p.m.
Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge
Each session will accommodate up to 80 participants. Additional sessions may be added, if required.
"It's important for us as City Council to provide leadership by bringing people from all sides of this issue together to share their perspectives and collaborate on community-based solutions," says Mayor Chris Spearman. "We need solutions that respect the range of interests that exist and meaningfully address the difficulties our community is facing because of this crisis. Together we will develop a solutions-based substance abuse strategy that will be created by the community, driven by the community and delivered by the community in partnership with the responsible levels of government and service providers."
In recent years, Lethbridge has been negatively affected by the escalating drug crisis. These effects include drug-related behaviour in or around the downtown area and the Supervised Consumption Site as well as increasing petty crime and discarded needles and other drug paraphernalia in public places.
In addition to established channels for reporting and combating petty crime and nuisance behaviour associated with drug addiction, the Lethbridge Police Service is also exploring innovative new strategies to increase front-line capacity and help residents feel safe in their community.
The upcoming meetings are part of a broader consultation process, which will include three phases conducted over six weeks aimed at achieving the following objectives:
- Provide opportunities for Lethbridge citizens to discuss their experiences and suggest solutions
- Define and agree upon challenges that can be addressed
- Identify community-based strategies to address these challenges
- Identify any gaps or barriers to implementing these strategies
- Recommend terms of reference that set out the mandate and scope of work for the ad hoc committee established by City Council
Phase 1 of the consultation process will produce a What We Heard report. This report will inform Phase 2 consultations which will involve a two-day community strategy session later in October with up to 40 targeted stakeholders such as EMS, business people, social service providers, police, housing agencies, and harm reduction service providers. These Phase 2 consultations will identify desired responses to the drug crisis, any barriers to implementing those responses, and will produce the elements to create a draft community-based drug strategy.
Phase 3 consultations in early November will include a working group of representatives from key organizations and agencies in Lethbridge who will develop an action plan and draft terms of reference for the Council-appointed committee. The terms of reference will require approval by City Council.
On August 7, City Council voted to hold community consultation sessions aimed at tackling issues arising from the drug crisis. Council also voted to establish a special ad hoc committee as soon as possible to address the challenges facing residents, businesses and others in Lethbridge because of the opioid crisis.
Gerald Gauthier, Communications Consultant
City of Lethbridge