In April 2019, Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site saw an average of 673 visits a day, making it one of the most used facilities of its kind across the globe.
“We knew that we were the busiest supervised consumption site in North America,” said Stacey Bourque, executive director of ARCHES Lethbridge.
“But it became pretty clear we were one of the busiest in the world as well.”
With more than 208,000 visits since the site opened in February 2018, Bourque said the numbers are nothing to brag about, however evidence of the harsh reality of the current crisis the local population is facing.
Bourque also noted that the numbers seen in Lethbridge show a stark contrast to the numbers seen in other mid-sized cities in Europe such as Bern, Switzerland, that reported only around 73,000 visits a year.
“I think it was shocking but also glaringly important that we share that with the community because it highlights further the increasing drug crisis in our community,” Bourque said, “and the necessity for us to have services to be able to support the crisis that we’re experiencing.”
From Apr. 28, to May. 1 Bourque and several other officials with the supervised consumption site attended the International Harm Reduction Conference in Portugal. During the event, Bourque said many topics were discussed, including harm reduction tactics and the challenges that surround implementing these sites in mid-sized cities such as Lethbridge.
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“Our biggest challenges are that we don’t have the same resources that larger centers have,” Bourque said of the Lethbridge site.
“Although we’ve been hit worse by the crisis on a per-capita basis, we don’t have the services necessary to provide the supports to move people along continuation care.”
Bourque, however, does commend the city for its help in creating collaborative programs to help the issue and those affected by it in the area. But she added more continuing care resources are needed in the city.
“We just need more services after that entry point level for people that are struggling of where we move them to after that,” Bourque said.
Borque added usage numbers are remaining steady at the site, with around 21,000 visits a month over the last six months.