Help for drug cri­sis

Prov­ince to fund 42bed sup­port­ive hous­ing fa­cil­ity, 30 in­tox spa­ces

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Tim Kalinowski

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has re­sponded to the needs of those on the front lines of the drug cri­sis with an $11-mil­lion grant to build a new 42-bed sup­port­ive hous­ing fa­cil­ity for re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts and an­other $1.6-mil­lion grant to cre­ate 30 new in­tox spa­ces, En­vi­ron­ment and Parks Minister Shan­non Phillips an­nounced at city hall on Fri­day.

“As Leth­bridge MLAs, Maria (Fitzpatrick) and I have heard our com­mu­nity loud and clear,” she said. “No one wants to see our fam­i­lies, our friends and our neigh­bours strug­gle with opi­oid de­pen­dency, and it is far too com­mon. Com­pas­sion is not enough, though; we must act. This is a long-term fight, and this is the next stage.”

Phillips con­firmed the gov­ern­ment was aim­ing to have the new fa­cil­i­ties built, up and run­ning by next year.

The 30-space in­tox fa­cil­ity, in par­tic­u­lar, will al­low first re­spon­ders to take in­di­vid­u­als they find in­tox­i­cated, or high on drugs, in pub­lic ar­eas to a safe place where they can come down from their ad­dic­tions with­out bring­ing fur­ther harm to them­selves or the pub­lic.

Leth­bridge Po­lice Chief Rob Davis said get­ting in­tox in the com­mu­nity was a huge step in giv­ing his of­fi­cers the tools they needed to deal with pub­lic drug usage and in­tox­i­ca­tion.

“The (en­hanced polic­ing) an­nounce­ments from the (City’s) bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions, along with this an­nounce­ment; they are all lin­ing up to make the city a bet­ter place,” Davis stated. “I have said a num­ber of times we can­not ar­rest our way out of this. Our pow­ers (as po­lice) are very lim­ited. When we ar­rest some­body, we can­not de­tain them ar­bi­trar­ily for an un­lim­ited amount of time. This gives us a fa­cil­ity where we can take the ad­dicted per­son to start the treat­ment process to beat the ad­dic­tion.”

Leth­bridge Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices Chief Richard Hilde­brand said both the in­tox and sup­port­ive hous­ing an­nounce­ments give his mem­bers a bit of hope af­ter a long, hard strug­gle against the opi­oid cri­sis this past year.

“Gen­eral trends sug­gest this is­sue is go­ing to get worse,” he said. “We are deal­ing with just such high num­bers of over­dose re­sponses and deaths. We are still los­ing peo­ple, and that is dif­fi­cult on our staff. We see the same per­son in a span of a few days who has over­dosed nu­mer­ous times, and it just feels as if it is hope­less at times.

“So this an­nounce­ment to­day is re­ally go­ing to make, we feel, a start­ing point to ad­dress some of the key, un­der­ly­ing is­sues, and we hope we will see some re­lief of some the strains our sys­tem has felt as a re­sult of (the drug cri­sis).”

Mayor Chris Spear­man said the two long-awaited an­nounce­ments from the prov­ince came about as a re­sult of years of tire­less lob­by­ing by the City. He praised MLAs Fitzpatrick and Phillips for their strong sup­port at the pro­vin­cial level on bring­ing this sup­port­ive hous­ing and in­tox fund­ing to Leth­bridge; this on top of ex­ist­ing ser­vices like the Su­per­vised Con­sump­tion Site, eight new detox beds at the Chi­nook Re­gional Hos­pi­tal and pro­vin­cial money for lo­cal nee­dle col­lec­tion ef­forts.

“I think this a great day for the City of Leth­bridge,” said Spear­man. “We have lis­tened to the cit­i­zens. We have lis­tened to our partners in the com­mu­nity who are deal­ing with the drug is­sue, and now we have fi­nally got­ten funded for all four of the pro­grams we were ask­ing sup­port for. Be­ing funded by four (pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment) min­istries, along with our two MLAs, to ad­dress the most se­ri­ous is­sue in the city right now — that’s tremen­dous. And we look for­ward to work­ing with them on im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

Fitzpatrick said the an­nounce­ments made on Fri­day will pay div­i­dends for pub­lic safety and well-be­ing go­ing for­ward.

“The first thing you have to do is save lives,” said Fitzpatrick, re­fer­ring to the Su­per­vised Con­sump­tion Site, “but now with the wrap-around ser­vices that have been an­nounced to­day, I think our lo­cal busi­nesses are go­ing to see a pos­i­tive im­pact. They are not go­ing to have peo­ple hang­ing around their busi­nesses (high on drugs). You are go­ing to see a drop in petty crime. You are go­ing to see pos­i­tive re­sponses from all of those pil­lars (SCS, in­tox, detox and sup­port­ive hous­ing).”

Her­ald photo by Ian Martens

Leth­bridge West MLA Shan­non Phillips, along­side Leth­bridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick and mayor Chris Spear­man, an­nounces pro­vin­cial fund­ing for a sup­port­ive hous­ing fa­cil­ity, and the cre­ation of new in­tox spa­ces in re­sponse to the cur­rent drug cri­sis. @IMarten­sHer­ald

Her­ald photo by Ian Martens

Leth­bridge Po­lice Chief Rob Davis, right, and Leth­bridge Fire Chief Richard Hilde­brand lis­ten to the an­nounce­ment of pro­vin­cial fund­ing for ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery fa­cil­i­ties Fri­day at city hall. @IMarten­sHer­ald

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