The organization that runs Lethbridge’s safe consumption site believes residents would have a lot more to be concerned about if it wasn’t around.
ARCHES (AIDS Outreach Community Harm Reduction Education & Support Society) noted taxpayers would have to cough up a lot more and children could have to do more than avoid discarded needles if they didn’t exist.
The managing director said it costs $1.2 million to treat a drug user who contracts HIV and $60,000 to treat Hepatitis C, compared to 11 cents for a new syringe.
“From a purely pragmatic perspective, we do know that harm-reduction is cost effective. We do know that it saves dollars,” Jill Manning said.
On Thursday, she told Global News if the site wasn’t there, more drug use would be taking place in public areas and pose a larger threat to the public.
She said there were about 20,000 visits to the site in its first three months.
“While I realize it’s not ideal, we also have to deal in reality. The reality is that right now, we’re in the middle of a drug epidemic.”
WATCH: Global News’ coverage of discarded needles and Lethbridge’s safe consumption site
Alberta Health Services (AHS) said these tactics aren’t enabling drug users, who would otherwise be putting their health in jeopardy.
“We talk about the risk of HIV, which can be transmitted through needles and other activities, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B,” said medical health officer Dr. Vivien Suttorp.
AHS figures show hepatitis C doubled in the south zone between 2013 and 2017, which is linked to the opioid crisis.
In the first three months of 2018, there were 26 cases of hepatitis C in the region.