February 24th, 2020

Health Canada has not yet seen Alberta panel’s supervised consumption report

By GILLIAN SLADE on January 29, 2020.

NEWS FLE PHOTO
Medicine Hat's proposed location for a supervised consumption site on South Railway Street on June 3, 2019.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com@MHNGillianSlade

Health Canada says Alberta has not shared with it the findings of a panel’s review of supervised consumption sites.

“To date, the government of Alberta has not shared the findings of its report with Health Canada,” said Maryse Durette, spokesperson for Health Canada.

“The opioid crisis represents the most serious public health issue in Canada’s recent history. At the same time, the rise of methamphetamine use, most notably in the Prairie provinces, presents unique challenges and serious health harms.”

The Alberta supervised consumption review panel report was to be submitted to the government by Dec. 31. There is confirmation that the government is in receipt of the report but no details have been made public yet.

Recently Premier Jason Kenney told media he had seen a summary of the report and it was possible some sites would be moved or closed.

Durette says all levels of government have a role to play in overseeing the operations of supervised consumption sites.

“The Government of Canada is deeply concerned about problematic substance use, and the overdose crisis which is affecting individuals, families and communities across the country,” said Durette.

Harm reduction measures including supervised consumption are considered an integral part of the federal government’s strategy to address the situation and prevent overdose deaths, she said.

“Evidence shows that when properly established and operated, supervised consumption sites save lives and can provide people who use drugs with access to important health and social services, including substance use treatment for those who are ready,” said Durette.

In order to operate a site in Canada, an exemption under section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is required.

Durette notes that provincial and municipal governments may be implicated in several ways regarding funding for health service delivery and zoning or land-use restrictions, respectively.

Even if the provincial government decides to provide no funding for a site in Medicine Hat, that does not mean one could not be established with the appropriate exemption from Health Canada.

“Supervised consumption sites can obtain financial support from a wide range of sources, including municipalities, non-profit and community organizations, and private donors,” said Durette.

Health Canada says that since 2017 the data reported indicates that more than 860,000 visits to sites have taken place across Canada. Nearly 8,000 overdoses have been reversed and there have been no deaths. These locations have also referred more than 27,000 people for health and social services.

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