With the full support of the Lethbridge Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use, ARCHES, a local harm reduction agency, submitted a comprehensive application to Health Canada on July 31, 2017.
Alberta's Health Minister is putting her support firmly behind this application to establish Supervised Consumption Services in Lethbridge to respond to the growing crisis of opioid use.
"Supervised Consumption Services saves lives, and they are a vital component of Alberta's broader opioid emergency response, says Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.
Minister Hoffman goes on to state, "The application to provide these services in Lethbridge is the product of hard work from Mayor Chris Spearman and City Council, the Lethbridge Police Service, Lethbridge's harm reduction agency ARCHES, and the other members of the Lethbridge Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use. I commend them for their passionate advocacy, and the Government of Alberta is pleased to support their application. I know that families, first responders, and all residents of Lethbridge have been hit hard by the opioid emergency.
"Lethbridge is the third community in Alberta to submit an application to Health Canada. I urge Health Canada to approve these applications as expeditiously as possible. We look forward to working with additional Alberta communities where Supervised Consumption Services can reduce harm and prevent families from losing loved ones."
Stacey Bourque, Executive Director of ARCHES, says a decision from Health Canada on the application is expected later this year and that ARCHES will work with federal representatives to ensure all requirements are met in order to receive an approval.
"The site identified in the application, at 1016-1 Avenue South, emerged through a site-selection process that centred around the following critieria: its close proximity to primary areas where public drug use occurs, the high incidence of overdoses occurring within a 1.5-km radius of the identified site, its proximity to public transit, and the fact that it is well away from residential neighbourhoods," Bourque says.
Supervised Consumption Services are a permitted use under the existing land-use zoning for the site. ARCHES will relocate its existing harm reduction operations to the new site and integrate Supervised Consumption Services into its current programming. Bourque says the agency is dedicated to continuing community engagement and is committed to being a good neighbour. Staff will immediately begin contacting neighbouring businesses to create strong lines of communication.
Earlier this summer, after completing a community needs assessment and studying community addiction strategies worldwide, the Coalition determined that Supervised Consumption Services would be an effective intervention model to reduce harm from drug use and help save lives. The Coalition is a group of organizations that began meeting in the fall of 2016 to improve the coordination of services to respond effectively to the opioid crisis and explore the feasibility of implementing Supervised Consumption Services.
The goal of this group is to collaborate on a coordinated community approach to effectively address the growing issue of opioid abuse in Lethbridge. This comprehensive strategy includes Prevention, Early Intervention, Harm Reduction, Treatment, and Rehabilitation.
The Coalition hosted a series of community discussion sessions in July to provide information and answer questions from Lethbridge residents.
For additional information on the Lethbridge response to the opioid crisis, please click here.