CONCERNS - Dr. Michael Mulholland, physician lead of Medically Supported Detox at Safe Harbour, voiced his concerns on potential sites for supervised consumption services at the Dec. 19th public hearing. Carlie Connolly/Lacombe Express

Red Deer approves hospital for potential supervised consumption services

A report on potential mobile services will come back to council January

City council has approved the hospital as the selected potential site for supervised consumption services following the approval of an amended land use bylaw that now allows this use on the site.

City council will act as the development authority for all potential development permit applications on this site.

Following a packed house and approximately 30 citizens giving their feedback at a public hearing Tuesday night, City council met again Dec. 20th to weigh in and decide on the narrowed down list of potential sites.

Initially, council considered six potential sites, which included the hospital (3942 50A Ave.), Turning Point (4611 50th Ave.) Safe Harbour (5256 and 5246 53rd Ave.), and the three community health centres (300 Jordan Parkway, 2845 Bremner Avenue, and 4755 49th St.)

After eliminating the community health centres the day of the public hearing, council deliberated at length on the hospital, Safe Harbour and Turning Point.

Many councillors around the table expressed frustration with a letter the City received from Alberta Health Services (AHS) stating that they do not plan to submit an application to offer supervised consumption services in their health facilities in Red Deer.

Councillor Ken Johnston said the province has cut them loose.

“While we are cut loose we need to address the deaths on the street,” he said.

Johnston also added that in hearing from citizens in the community the word hope came up in many forms, including hope for including equity, providing a safe environment, protection from trauma and hope that council would look at the bigger picture among other hopes.

“The tipping point is the reality that people are dying on our streets today. They are dying today.”

Johnston said he was supportive around the potential site being at Turning Point and was disappointed they didn’t get approval.

“I was quite supportive of the Turning Point site and Safe Harbour, and my concerns were around the value of relationships that are apparent with that organization and the drug addicted population downtown,” said Johnston.

He added, however, that he’s humbled and educated by his fellow colleagues and respects the decision that was made.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said she’s hopeful they now have the attention of the provincial government that this is a health issue for the community.

“I think this discussion has underlined to the community as well as council to the orders of government that we must work together on these types of decisions,” said Wyntjes.

Mayor Tara Veer said that although the hospital was the selected site, that does not exclude others from making applications for federal exemption.

“We still fully anticipate that any agency can still make application before the federal government for a federal exemption. I think that there are a couple of options that would be available to the community partners,” said Veer.

She added that by council identifying the hospital as a discretionary zone, that means that AHS or any other agency could apply to operate either a temporary service, permanent service on site or through a mobile unit.

There is no funding for supervised consumption services being provided by the City of Red Deer as supervised consumption services is a federal and provincial initiative, which was heavily discussed around the council table.

A report about potential mobile supervised consumption services will come back to council come January.

Veer said there was a lot of talk around Turning Point and their involvement with the vulnerable in building relationships, which is something council addressed throughout their deliberations.

“There was very strong consensus that Turning Point is likely the best qualified and the strongest prospect for an agency to deliver the service, because they certainly are the agency that has the established relationships with the population that needs to be served,” she said, adding that that doesn’t preclude them as an agency that could potentially operate a mobile unit.

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