Pubdate: Sun, 01 Oct 2017
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: J.W. Schnarr
Page: A3


Stafford Drive bridge area being fenced off

CP Rail is cutting off access to one of the most active illicit
injection sites in the city in the coming months, which could drive up
drug use in other areas of the city.

In a report to Lethbridge Police Commission on Wednesday, ARCHES
Executive Director Stacey Bourque told the commission when CP Rail
cuts access to the area under Stafford Bridge, many drug users will
lose access to an area where ARCHES cleans thousands of used needles
every month.

"CP rail is intending - for safety purposes - to block off that space.
So they are going to fence it off.

Historically, pushing people out of certain areas often pushes them
into other areas.

"We know once that gets closed off, they will either find a way in, or
they will find somewhere else to conduct their activities," said
Bourque. "It may be even less safe than where they currently are."

Bourque said she was unable to make predictions about where many of
those users may end up.

"There are so many hotspots in the city right now, she said. "There
are shooting galleries that have cropped up in places we never would
have expected. So it's hard to say, especially with winter coming."

While summer weather allows addicts to shoot up anywhere they have
some privacy, winter poses challenges in terms of finding somewhere
warm as well as private.

"In winter they may be looking for something that is semi sheltered,
and may have a heat source, like a vent or something," Bourque said.

"We find lots of people putting up canvas, or tents, and boxes, and
kind of building up their own little huts."

Over the summer, the number of needles distributed by Arches has grown
from 16,000 per month in the spring to about 30,000 per month over the

These needles are served to many of the estimated 6,000 addicts in the
Lethbridge area, including 3,000 in the city.

Bourque said some of the growth in distribution can be linked to
easier mobility in the summer, which allows people to have more access
to services.

"There's more people in general, to distribute to, because there's
more activity in all sectors of the city."

While the numbers appear to have stabilized for now, something Arches
has not seen before, the next three months will allow the organization
to get a better sense of whether supply distribution in the city has
seen a plateau or if another spike is coming.

In spite of the discussion currently happening around the opioid
crisis and addiction issues, Bourque said addictions and mental health
issues are traditionally topics people do not talk enough about.

It is important to shift the focus away from focusing on getting
people to quit drugsoutright - sometimes with disasterous consequences
- - and focus on a harm reduction and providing support services.

"Abstinence is definitely a part of that," said Bourque. "If that's
the identified goal of the individual. But being clientfocused means
we're working with them and where they're at in the moment.

"Lots of the same stigma, such as the idea harm reduction is enabling,
or that people can simply stop using drugs and this is a choice, need
to be addressed.

"We hear all of those things, and continue to work to have
conversations around them, so we can answer people's questions. It's
really important moving forward. "

The idea that users simply need to hit rock bottom before they can
recover from their addiction also needs to be reconsidered.

"What's rock bottom?" Bourque asked. "If death isn't enough, or being
homeless, or losing your children isn't enough, what's enough?"
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MAP posted-by: Matt