By Gillian Slade on August 4, 2018.
The annual operating costs of a supervised consumption site in Medicine Hat will be about $2 million, says Alberta Health.
“HIV Community Link has estimated that annual operating costs for a proposed supervised consumption site in Medicine Hat would be approximately $1.9 million annually,” said Aaron Manton, press secretary for Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman.
“Alberta’s opioid crisis demands action, and I am glad that the province and organizations like HIV Community Link are working on the ground in communities like Medicine Hat and across the province to keep vulnerable Albertans healthy and safe,” Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner said in an emailed statement.
HIV Community Link also received $900,000 in startup costs to create the local site.
City council says it been inundated with emails from concerned members of the public.
“… HIV Community Link is engaging with community leaders and the public in Medicine Hat to understand how supervised consumption services can best work here,” said Wanner. “I look forward to seeing the results of that work. I will continue to advocate for comprehensive public health-care services in Medicine Hat and southeastern Alberta to ensure we all receive the services we need and deserve.”
Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes says some of his constituents have been expressing concerns as well, suggesting there should have been community consultation before announcing a site.
“Local decision making is always the most effective and the most efficient. We should not allow the focus on harm reduction to divert attention and resources away from treatment, long-term treatment that works and enforcement,” Barnes said.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman told the News this week that the Lethbridge site saved 319 lives in the past six months by administering Naloxone to those who had overdosed.
The information was given to the minister from ARCHES who receives its funding from Alberta Health to operate the site in Lethbridge.
Barnes claims it is difficult to know how those numbers are determined and to critique them.
The subject of funding for safe consumption was talked about in the legislature.
“I expressed my concern to make sure we are doing meaningful action to be really caring about those suffering from addiction, recovery beds, addiction beds, counselling. We have concerns about kicking the can down the road without providing meaningful care to Albertans who need help,” said Barnes.
Medicine Hat MP Glen Motz also wants to see a focus on addressing the addiction, considering the amount of money Alberta Health is spending.
“If this is something that is necessary in our society, which is a tragic statement on the state we’re in, then what is being done to ensure that these individuals receive information, guidance, help to deal with their treatment and addiction,?” said Motz. “There should be an equal amount of resources, to me at least an equal amount or even more resources, spent on trying to help these people through that addiction than there is just to make sure that the next fix isn’t going to cause them to overdose and die.”
HIV Community Link has estimated that annual operating costs for a proposed supervised consumption site in Medicine Hat would be approximately $1.9 million annually.
Lethbridge is receiving $1.6 million in operating funds for 2018-19.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman recently announced that Lethbridge will receive an additional $80,000 (for a total of $160,000) for community projects that address issues related to needle and substance use debris in the community and other harm reduction services, the minister’s press secretary said.
Alberta Health also provided HIV Community Link with $86,500 to complete a needs assessment to support its supervised consumption site proposal to Health Canada.
Alberta Health has also allocated $900,000 for capital and renovation costs for the Medicine Hat site, pending Health Canada approval of HIV Community Link’s application.
How sites are authorized
In Canada, possession of controlled substances is prohibited under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
To operate a safe consumption site and allow people to consume an illicit substances, an exemption under section 56.1 of the act is required.
Health Canada can provide an exemption. HIV Community Link has told the News it has applied for such a permit.
According to Health Canada’s website, an application for this exemption must include documentation of consultation with a broad range of stakeholders in the community.
Each site is considered on a case-by-case basis, on its own merits, says the website.
The exemption is generally given for one year and then an application for renewal is required.