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Calgary agencies support moving supervised consumption sites to shelters, call for more services to be added

Last Updated Jun 16, 2021 at 9:41 am MDT

A needle drop box outside the Sheldon Chumir safe consumption site in downtown Calgary. March 5, 2020 (PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY – There has been criticism of the UCP’s plan to shut down the supervised consumption site at the Sheldon Chumir and move it into existing homeless shelters, but it seems like Calgary’s social services agencies are in favour of the move.

In a letter to the province, 19 agencies highlight the point that supervised consumption sites are only effective in a radius around where they’re put up, saying placing the sites near homeless shelters would better serve those vulnerable populations.

“Not only are we advocating for the SCSs to be closer to where our clients are but that there need to be additional services associated with this we not only need a space for our clients to use safely we need resources to address and treat the underlying drivers of addiction and mental health,” reads the letter dated June 1.

“Staff at our facilities are already reversing large numbers of overdoses on a daily basis within our sites and off site in nearby parks and streets given that supervised consumption sites is most effective within a 500-metre radius around them. It would be crucial to have these services at our locations where the incidence rates are high.”

Some of the additional supports the groups are calling for include opioid agonist treatment, mental health and psychiatric supports, substance detoxification, transition beds, primary care, and access to recovery-oriented services like treatment and psychosocial supports.

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“A full spectrum of services tailored and specific to the needs of the population need to be created and provided on top of the regular health services and social services like housing health benefits access to income opportunities an identification.”

The letter says these solutions won’t completely solve the crisis, but it will help alleviate some issues when used in tandem with existing services like the overdose app and naloxone kits.

“Supervised consumption services are critical to reducing the unacceptable number of Albertans dying of a preventable overdose,” said NDP critic for addicitons and mental health Lori Sigurdson in a statement.

“We support the urgent expansion of these services. Jason Kenney has closed these services in Lethbridge, Edmonton, and soon in Calgary. These decisions by the UCP have contributed to the death toll.”

Last week, when we spoke with Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan, he told us they are planning on integrating two new sites into homeless shelters as they close the Chumir’s site.

“The service, as it is, is chaotic, it’s creating all kinds of challenges in the community, including the surrounding businesses,” he told 660 NEWS in an exclusive interview.

“Also, in terms of people accessing the service, there’s no standard and there’s no consistency. So, they’re not getting [the care] they deserve.”

Luan explained they have a multi-principled approach: standardize the service, professionalize it, and integrate it into a full continuum of care model.

The province has confirmed it received the letter and says it appreciated stakeholders coming together in support of a common direction.