August 21st, 2019

Supervised consumption out of city hands: Councillor

By Gillian Slade on January 22, 2019.

A supervised consumption site for Medicine Hat will be located at 502 S. Railway St., HIV Community Link announced Tuesday.--NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNET

It was a provincial decision to establish a supervised consumption site in Medicine Hat and if nearby property owners experience a drop in property value they will need to seek help federally and provincially, says a city councillor.

“I think if citizens find that they will need to form an association and they need to go to their MLAs and MP to see if they can get some sort of compensation,” said Coun. Phil Turnbull.

HIV Community Link signed a lease at the end of December to start up a site at 502 S. Railway Street.

“For me it is the best of the worst solution,” said Turnbull. “It is not something we desired or designed.”

For eight months HIV Community Link (which is responsible for establishing the site in Medicine Hat) has been engaging with the community because of the escalating number of overdose and overdose deaths locally, says executive director Leslie Hill.

“This engagement included over 40 meetings with residents, businesses, government and other stakeholders in the downtown and North Railway areas,” Hill said in an email. “The valuable feedback received through these sessions was used to inform program development and to determine a location for the services.”

Turnbull says he does have concerns for the property owners located nearby.

“If there was anything I could have done to change that I would have,” said Turnbull.

“Once the location was acquired, HIV Community Link reached out to the immediate neighbours through phone calls and door knocking prior to making a public announcement,” Hill’s email states. “Materials regarding the supervised consumption service, our location, community engagement process, and an invitation to an information session were left in the mailboxes of immediate neighbours who did not answer their doors.”

Turnbull says while recognizing the need to help people at a supervised consumption site, it is also hard for those who believe they will be negatively impacted by the location. However, until the site is operating we don’t know what the true impact will be.

“The sky did not fall when the legalization for cannabis came in,” said Turnbull.

A portable trailer for supervised consumption was what Turnbull would have preferred to see.

“In the end it is their decision, not ours,” said Turnbull.

Other communities such as Red Deer tried to change land by-laws to block the establishment of a site. The federal and provincial governments stepped in to make it happen, said Turnbull.

The establishment of the residential detox facility on Kipling Street in Medicine Hat did not solicit any adverse public response.

“I would have thought that would have been a great site for them as well,” said Turnbull.

Hill says HIV Community Link is “committed to ongoing engagement with our neighbours to ensure it is proactive and responsive” in delivering “this necessary and life-saving service.”

Alberta Health is providing funding for HIV Community link to establish the site locally. It will also provide funding for the annual budget of about $2 million.

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