Pubdate: Wed, 03 May 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte
Page: A3


Letter to federal authorities is first step; advisory committee to
give feedback

City council voted 10-1 Tuesday to write a letter of support for four
supervised injection sites in the inner core, pledging to monitor for
any negative effect on the community.

The province is responsible for funding the service; Ottawa is
responsible to regulate it.

But Mayor Don Iveson said, "We will continue to play a key role ... so
we can speak up if the worst fears of the community do come to pass."

Council also voted to develop a public advisory committee for these
and any other future sites to give residents a continuing voice in the

Council's letter of support is one step toward securing federal
exemption for the locations, one in the Royal Alexandra Hospital and
three embedded in community health and social service centres.

On Monday, roughly two dozen residents and business leaders opposed
the concentration of services in already distressed communities. But
many on council said they believe this service will make the
communities safer by enabling addicts to get help and reducing the
number of people injecting in public.

What's going to happen here "is a quicker response to emergencies,"
said Coun. Bryan Anderson, calling it a small step in dealing with a
growing fentanyl and drug overdose crisis.

"I get your anger, I get your frustration," said Coun. Scott McKeen to
those in his ward who were most upset. These neighbourhoods have been
treated unfairly in the past, he said. "However, what's really unfair
is that we have criminalized mental illness ... this is finally
recognizing that (people self-medicating with drugs) need a health

Coun. Tony Caterina cast the only vote against the

He said he supports a site in the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

He doesn't support three sites in the neighbourhoods.

"When I lived in McCauley 50 years ago, there was always a stigma,"
Caterina said.

At 10 years old, his baseball team used to win each home game because
other teams simply wouldn't come, he said. "I don't see that changing
today ... There's not enough evidence here to tell me this is good for
these particular communities."

Councillors Mike Nickel and Bev Esslinger were absent. Esslinger was
on council business in Asia.

Iveson introduced a motion to be voted on next week asking officials
to start building a co-ordinated wellness strategy for the inner city.
It would encourage existing agencies in the area to consolidate,
likely focused around one new or renovated building.

"The key thing is ... it can't be about managing the same people the
same way," Iveson said, adding this has to be a way into housing and
other support.
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