Pubdate: Sun, 29 Oct 2017
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Claire Theobald
Page: 3


Safe sites for drug users stir up heated debate at MP-led community
forum in southwest Edmonton

Heated debate erupted in the gymnasium at Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour
School Saturday as residents of Edmonton-Riverbend argued over whether
their suburban community would ever welcome supervised injection sites.

"It was pretty clear that a lot of people weren't supportive of safe
injection sites coming into suburban areas, which we've been hearing
through letters to the office and phone calls," said Matt Jeneroux,
member of parliament for Edmonton-Riverbend.

Supervised injection sites - where intravenous drug users can inject
under the supervision of medical professionals as a way to reduce
overdose deaths - are approved for the Royal Alexandra Hospital, the
Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services and the
George Spady Society.

The sites faced vocal opposition from members of surrounding
communities who thought the concentration of services put too much of
a burden on already stigmatized communities, including Boyle Street
and Central McDougall.

Those opposed to the sites felt as if there was not enough
consultation with members of those communities before the sites were
approved and have argued that the majority of overdose deaths come
from outside of those communities, meaning sites should be spread more
evenly throughout the city to be effective.

Warren Champion, past president of Central McDougall Community League,
said by concentrating these sites in the downtown core, officials are
turning their backs on the issue of drug overdoses in suburban

"Basically, you're on your own," said Champion. "You will continue to

Though there is no current plan to put a safe injection site anywhere
within the ward's boundaries, the potential threat from those
interested in addressing addiction issues in the suburbs inspired
Jeneroux and members of the Calling CC community advocacy group to
gather community members for a forum on the subject while circulating
a petition that would extend mandatory public consultation periods -
currently between 45 and 90 days once the federal health minister
receives an application - to avoid past mistakes.

"We can extend it and give people, like the people who showed up
today, more of an opportunity to have their voices heard," Jeneroux

While many gathered Saturday expressed feeling 'betrayed' and
'insulted' by past consultation processes and ignored petitions,
others were concerned about the perceived risk associated with having
safe injection sites in their suburban communities, including fears
over increased criminality and encouraging illegal drug use.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Clague, with the Edmonton Police southwest division,
said the negative consequences of unaddressed addictions issues are
already playing out on suburban streets, saying he personally has
responded to at least a dozen overdose calls in the last year.

Heather Stanchfield, a nurse who says she has worked on the "front
lines" of the issue at a supervised injection site in Vancouver, did
her best to assuage some of their fears which she believes stem more
from a lack of information on the subject rather than real risk to the

She said supervised injection sites are one tool in a suite of
services that need to be offered to create a pathway out of addiction,
and having those wrap around services already in place was a big part
of why Edmonton's approved supervised injection sites are where they

The current model of having ambulance crews racing around the city
resuscitating overdosing patients is expensive and ineffective, she
said, and supervised injection sites can be a first step to accessing
long-term services.

"The current methodology that we have isn't getting to the core of
addictions for people, it's not giving people larger wrap around
services and referrals, it's simply saving their lives and letting
them go back. It's a very expensive way to provide emergency care,"
said Stanchfield.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt