June 24th, 2024

Consumption site concerns Tim’s official

By Gillian Slade on August 7, 2018.


gslade@medicinehatnews.com 
@MHNGillianSlade

The safety of staff, customers, needle debris and economic repercussions are some of the concerns being expressed by Tim Hortons regarding the supervised consumption site planned for Medicine Hat.

“As an organization we are very concerned about the issues surrounding a supervised consumption site coming to our downtown/Maple Avenue area. I am concerned about the safety of our staff and customers. We are also quite concerned about the negative impact this could have on our business and businesses nearby,” said Bryan De Jong, business manager at EIWM HOLDINGS that owns multiple Tim Hortons locations in Medicine Hat, including Maple Avenue and Third Street downtown.

RELATED: Hatters express safe consumption concern

De Jong says his businesses are seeing an increase of needles year over year.

“They are left on the toilets, bathroom sink/counters, on the floor and in our garbage cans, 70 to 80 per cent of the time without a protective cover. The risk of a customer or employee getting poked by a needle is ever increasing. Users are flushing needles down the toilet and putting them in our floor drains. It’s clogging our plumbing, it all adds to the cost of doing business,” said De Jong.

De Jong says he understands the concept of harm reduction but feels the system needs to be refined. He says he has personally met HIV Community Link representatives and is aware of their research. He says they are good people and believes they genuinely want to help.

HIV Community Link received $900,000 in startup funding from Alberta Health to establish a safe consumption site in Medicine Hat. The group will also receive about $1.9 million annually for operating costs. Alberta Health also gave $86,500 to complete a needs assessment to support its supervised consumption site proposal to Health Canada for an exemption permit required to allow the consumption of illicit substances on the premises.

De Jong believes needle debris is a concern and feels there could be an increase in the number of needles found surrounding the supervised consumption site in Medicine Hat.

ARCHES opened a site in Lethbridge earlier this year and Shannon Hennig, director of harm reduction services HIV Community Link, confirmed to the News recently that needle debris is an issue there.

Press secretary to Health Minster Sarah Hoffman told the News recently that ARCHES is receiving $1.6 million in operating funds for 2018-19 from Alberta Health and a total of $160,000 to address needle and substance use debris in the community.

De Jong says customer and employee safety is a concern.

“I know there have been efforts by a Lethbridge city council member to prevent ARCHES from distributing clean needles, the proposal was defeated by a 5-4 loss,” said De Jong. “If we look at the lagging effects of the supervised consumption site in Lethbridge, you can quickly see the negative impact that comes with the clinic. It gives a perception of poverty and crime that detracts consumers from coming to businesses near by the supervised consumption site.”

De Jong believes there could be an economic risk to Medicine Hat and the possibility of efforts made to improve the downtown core being wasted.

“Medicine Hat already has a fragile downtown economy, in my opinion, and best efforts need to be conducted to protect the businesses there, which I feel the city itself could be doing more to promote and protect,” said De Jong.

De Jong hopes to see Medicine Hat learning from Lethbridge to avoid reactive behaviour.

There are rumours but HIV Community Link has not confirmed that it plans to rent the space where Captain’s Cabin was on Maple Avenue near Tim Hortons. If it goes there, De Jong believes it would hurt the store’s business.

“I don’t even want to imagine a crowd of strung out, high individuals frequenting our establishment and hanging out in our parking lot,” said De Jong. “A supervised consumption site should not be placed anywhere near a location that serves families and young children, and the fact that we are a 24-hour location only adds to the list of interesting scenarios that we might encounter.”

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