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Supervised consumption sites still needed despite 'negative outcomes' says doctor

Needles and supplies ready to be used by clients at the supervised consumption site at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre. (CREDIT: Alberta Health Services)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – An expert on opioid addiction says mistakes may have been made in setting up supervised drug consumption sites in the province.

But even with those mistakes in mind, Dr. Robert Tanguay, the sites still serve a valuable role in combatting the opioid crisis.

Premier Jason Kenney has recently been somewhat critical of the facilities, pointing to–among other things–increased crime and disorder in the surrounding area of sites, like the Sheldon Chumir Centre in the Beltline.

Tanguay says in hindsight, some of the clinics may have been established in inappropriate areas, but the previous government was responding to a crisis in which hundreds of people were dying each year.

“They were a rapid response to people dying. What else do you do? We’re in a crisis. There was a need to do something,” he said. “Was it set up appropriately in some places? Probably not. But we were in a position where we had to do something.”

Tanguay adds one issue with the site in Calgary is it was not created with the help of physicians.

“There’s been some negative outcomes because of it and we have to deal with that. And some people are going to argue saying that’s not true, instead what we need to do is keep our eyes open and look at how do we shift and adjust and change based on what’s going on today.”

Tanguay, who’s the medical lead for the province’s opioid dependency program, spoke Thursday at the Ranchman’s Club, addressing the connection between treating pain and addiction.