By Tim Kalinowski on March 8, 2018.
Since coming online last week, Lethbridge’s new Supervised Consumption Site has already saved two lives, said ARCHES executive director Stacey Bourque.
“It is doing exactly what we want it to do,” said Bourque on Tuesday. “We have reversed two overdoses the other night. We have had over 80 unique individuals register and use the site, and we are up over 200 visits already.”
According to Bourque, those using the new site, after an initial adjustment period, have given it largely positive feedback.
“A lot of them are saying it is different, and they were nervous to come in at first,” admitted Bourque. “But they are glad they did, and it is not as weird as they thought it was going to be. The main thing is getting used to having someone watch them.”
Bourque stated the Supervised Consumption Site is also having success in helping drug users access other much-needed community services.
“Lots of referrals are happening for treatment and detox,” she confirmed. “We have lots of people accessing counselling in house, which is fantastic, and seeking other support services.
“There are lots of people using the nursing supports for wound care and STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing which is important. And our people are saying in the observation room, the clients are rarely using and leaving after the 10-minute period. They really want to stay in the facility and connect with staff, and engage in programming, which is really exciting for us as well. This site is meant to be an entry point into other services in the continuum (of treatment) so we can move people along and improve wellness.”
With the Lethbridge site up and running, Bourque said ARCHES has another grave challenge to meet. Her organization has been tasked with setting up a temporary supervised consumption site on the Kainai First Nation, which declared a state of emergency earlier this week as opioid overdoses and deaths have escalated there in recent weeks.
“We are happy to be able to support the Kainai First Nation as they respond to this urgent need in the community,” said Bourque. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with the community to provide temporary supervised consumption, and additional harm reduction services, to help address the opioid crisis and save lives.”
Bourque also had choice words for UCP party leader Jason Kenney, who declared last week in Lethbridge his opposition to supervised consumption sites.
“I would really encourage Mr. Kenney to read the evidence in regard to supervised consumption services,” she said. “Europe has been operating these sites since 1986, and there is lots of scientific evidence that proves these sites benefit people who use drugs and do increase intake into treatment and detox.
“They are more cost-effective than putting more dollars into ideas like the war on drugs, which we know is an ineffective drug policy that has cost us billions of dollars and we have only watched the drug problem worsen. We also know enforcement in isolation is not the answer. We need both harm reduction and enforcement, and treatment and rehabilitation, and prevention, working together to have an effective approach to people who use drugs.
“The only thing we are enabling, in terms of this facility, is breathing.”
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