Pubdate: Tue, 06 Dec 2016
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte
Page: A1


Alberta Avenue resident Adam Millie "tore a strip off " council staff
when he heard Edmonton was considering four safe injection sites in
the inner city.

Attracting more addicts and crime to fragile communities is not the
answer, Millie raged in a series of frustrated messages on Twitter,
Facebook and in an email to council. Then he had a change of heart. He
thought about the issue Friday evening.

On Saturday, he deleted those messages, sent an apology to council,
and came to City Hall on Monday to argue this plan is actually
critical to making those fragile communities safer.

"I looked at a map and I saw six elementary schools inside of a
kilometre (of the proposed Royal Alexandra Hospital site). I saw two
playgrounds . ... These are the very places that must be protected by
the safe injection site and aren't currently protected by the status
quo," Millie said, referring to the used needles frequently found
where children play. "I'm going to probably have heck to pay when I
get back to Alberta Avenue . ... I frankly don't care. It's absolutely
worth it."

Millie's comments speak to the next challenge to safe injection sites
in Edmonton - community support. On Monday, it was clear council
members are firmly in support.

In February, the plan goes to neighbours.

Officials expect some tension in these consultation meetings because
Edmonton's inner-city neighbourhoods have a high concentration of
poverty and social services. Many residents believe the concentration
of homeless outreach sites is one reason why so many homeless people
gather in their neighbourhoods and why property crimes are high.

Millie said residents will want to know what kind of security will be
in place. They'll want to know if this will actually get people off
their addictions, stop the cycle of drug-fuelled crime that leads to
break-in after break-in.

Officials promised much more information will be available to
neighbours and businesses, as well as drug users themselves.

On Monday, a panel of emergency doctors and community advocates told
councillors the current clean-needle program still leaves addicts
injecting in unsafe places.

This will let them inject in a sterile environment, then encourage
them to linger and stabilize indoors. Once they are no longer on the
edge of withdrawal, they can build relationships with nurses and
outreach workers to eventually treat the addiction.

"Harm reduction means keeping them alive so they can make a better
decision another day," said Petra Schulz, a mother who lost her son
Danny to a fentanyl overdose. Danny Schulz was a 25-year-old chef who
relapsed and took what he thought was an OxyContin pill alone. It was
fentanyl and no one was around to call 911.

Edmonton's safe injection sites would be similar to Vancouver's Insite
program, which has offered people with addictions a sterile spot to
inject drugs and access health support since 2003.

Edmonton's would be less conspicuous. The four sites would all be
inside existing service centres. Only the Royal Alexandra Hospital
site has so far been publicly identified. The first sites would cater
to the estimated 60 per cent of addicts who are homeless or unstably
housed, say advocates, and be part of a larger harm-reduction strategy.

"I have to tell you, I'm so tempted to just write the letter (of
support) today," said Mayor Don Iveson, who held back so the community
could weigh in and potentially make the program stronger.

"Going in this direction gives people dignity . ... We all need a
helping hand from time to time," said Coun. Bev Esslinger, who said
the benefits weren't obvious for her at first, either.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt