July 19th, 2019

Mayor Clugston should lead council to informed SCS outcome

By Letter to the Editor on September 10, 2018.

Medicine Hat’s city council is facing a delicate task choosing a location for the supervised consumption site and council members are most likely putting in extra hours as a result. It would be my guess more time is being spent fielding calls from the NIMBY (not in my back yard) slice of our community than is being spent collectively considering a location that works for the folks who will use it.

Toward the end of making an informed decision, I expected to see more than just one council member at the recent overdose awareness event at Riverside Veterans’ Memorial Park. If you wanted to hear from those we are trying to help, that would have been the place to be. There were powerful words spoken by people who suffer from addiction and the stigma that goes with it.

The event, hosted by the Medicine Hat Drug Coalition, provided a cross-section of the community dedicated to helping the people who will use the safe consumption site. The only council member I noticed was Kris Samraj and the only other elected official was Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner, whose government has made this facility available to the city. A wasted opportunity. It was all there — right across the street from City Hall.

Becoming informed is critical to ending the stigma of addiction. Addiction is not going away. We can’t hide it and nor should we. The use of harm reduction strategies, including safe consumption sites, is proven to save lives and reduce health care costs.

Unfortunately, the political hot-potato of finding a location for the safe site seems to be a little too warm for council’s collective fingers. The NIMBY folks have really put city council in a spot. Remarks made by the mayor in the Medicine Hat News find him blaming other levels of government, our legal system and people with addictions for causing this local dilemma.

Hopefully Mayor Clugston, upon reflection, will seize this opportunity to provide a life-saving service to some of our community’s most vulnerable, and lead council to an informed and empathetic outcome.

It is important to keep in mind that nice people use opioids or suffer from other addictions Nobody chooses addiction, but it happens.

Bob Westgarth

Medicine Hat

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