Pubdate: Thu, 19 Oct 2017
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Tijana Martin
Page: A1


Health Canada approved the first few supervised consumption facilities
in Alberta on Wednesday, including a site in downtown Lethbridge.

ARCHES and Edmonton-based coalition AMSISE received an exemption from
federal drug legislation, allowing them to operate supervised
consumption sites.

Four sites are slated to open, three in Edmonton and one in
Lethbridge, which will operate out of the former night club Pulse.

The application process for Lethbridge moved quicker than most and
Jill Manning, the managing director of ARCHES, feels that may be a
result of the unique issues Lethbridge is facing around substance use.

"Our emergency room visits relating to opioid use is higher than
anywhere else in the province; our prescriptions of opioids are
higher," she said.

In addition, ARCHES deals with a demographic that expands past

Earlier this summer, Manning estimated Lethbridge was home to 3,000
drug users and double that within southwest Alberta.

Those who choose to access the facility will be provided with a clean
and safe space to use drugs, under the supervision of health-care
professionals, keeping them as safe and healthy as possible in their
given practices and lifestyle.

The supervised site will help prevent accidental overdoses and help
reduce the burden on the emergency systems, Manning explained.

Last year, 559 Albertans died from opioid-related drug overdoses.
Apprehensive residents are encouraged to voice their concerns while
ARCHES forms their operational policies.

"We recognize that is an important demographic that we still need to
connect with, so I would really encourage anyone who feels like you
haven't been heard, or that your voices hasn't been present in these
conversations, please contact us at ARCHES," said Manning.

One thing she feels everyone can agree on is "we don't want to see our
fellow citizens dying in back alleys and under bridges because they
can't access supports that might be life saving to them."

"This a crisis that affects everyone regardless of socioeconomic
status, regardless of ethnicity, gender or age, or any of those
factors and that we as a community are coming together to respond in
an appropriate way," Manning explained.

Manning feels those opposed to harm reduction "stem from the
underlying thought that maybe harm reduction is enabling folks - that
it's making it too easy for people to engage in these activities.

"Really, that's all based on an underlying philosophy that a person
needs to hit rock bottom before they're going to engage in any type of

But the reality is, the demographic these services are oriented
towards are those who are most likely homeless, unemployed, estranged
from their families or engaged in the sex trade.

"People who are experiencing the most traumatic and high-stress
lifestyle that you could possibly imagine. So, it's difficult to
imagine what rock bottom is, if that isn't rock bottom.

"We don't want to give the impression that the minute our doors open,
all of a sudden this problem is just going to be solved," Manning added.

"We don't expect that this is going to solve the opioid crisis. What
we do expect we will see is less public drug consumption, which then
means there will be less public debris in the community."

According to Manning, it will be the first site in North America
approved for all four modes of consumption. Those accessing the site
will be permitted to snort, swallow, inject and inhale drugs under
supervision without fear of arrest.

While injecting is usually the most lethal because "its administration
route is the fastest acting, there are certainly overdoses - and fatal
overdoses - from all forms of consumption," Manning explained.

"This is an announcement that's going to save lives," said Mayor Chris
Spearman. "We're serious about addressing social issues in our city,
we recognize that there's a genuine need."

Renovations are underway for the Lethbridge safe consumption site at
1016 1 Ave. S and is expected to open early 2018.
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