The province has backtracked on plans to open a supervised consumption site at the Calgary Drop-In Centre after meeting with the City and East Village residents.
On Friday, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions MLA Mike Ellis tweeted an update to the proposal. Ellis said that after work to establish a “small scale overdose prevention service” they’ll have to shelve the project.
“The Calgary Drop-In Centre, in partnership with Alberta’s government, has listened to the community and heard the significant concerns of the surrounding communities and stakeholders,” Ellis posted to Twitter.
“We have jointly determined not to proceed with this proposed overdose prevention site.”
Ellis said they would support the DI to establish a medical detox and outreach and overdose response for the area.
In early August, East Village residents expressed concern over the new site. They said they want to support their neighbours, but need to hear directly from political leaders, emergency response teams and other agencies involved.
“The Drop-In Centre cannot be expected to carry the burden, or the solution themselves. There needs to be a broad, all-encompassing approach that includes everyone; from the government, the agencies, our Calgary communities, and individuals,” they wrote in an association post on Aug. 5.
“Downtown Calgary, particularly the east end, hosts a disproportionate number of services and while we welcome all, we need to be realistic of one small community’s capacity and remember the need to provide local services to other communities.”
The residents want a detailed plan from the City, AHS, the Calgary Police and the province that shows funding to ensure safety and security in the area.
Community engagement was important: DI executive director
DI Executive Director Sandra Clarkson said after working with area residents, they realized a different plan was needed.
“One of the key components in the process was a robust community engagement process and it became very clear to us through the series of meetings and feedback and responses that we got from community that this was not the response that they wanted,” Clarkson told LiveWire Calgary.
She said they would continue to work collaboratively with the province, the city and other stakeholders on an innovative solution.
Clarkson said some of the concerns related to social disorder and safety were beyond the scope of the DI. That when they determined a different response was required.
She said they were never looking at supervised consumption in isolation. The plan was to have withdrawal management, medically-supervised detox and recovery transition beds. Clarkson said those are still on the table.
One important thing to note is that the supervised consumption wasn’t available for clients that inhaled the drugs, Clarkson said. That accounts for a large number of users.
“We were missing a lot of people through that approach,” she said.
“I’m hopeful we can have more impact.”
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said there was likely a conflicting ideology on the plan.
“I think the struggle that everybody was having was that if you put a supervised consumption site at the Drop-In Center, you’re now asking everyone to go there for any supports that they need,” the mayor said.
The mayor said that residents, business owners and building owners wanted to know what would be done for crisis response.
“My hope would be that we’ll have more mobile crisis response units so that community safety can prioritize the person that’s in a position of crisis as well as everyone who’s living, working or visiting in the area to be safe,” Mayor Gondek said.