A long-awaited study has been completed and presented to the City of Lethbridge’s community issues committee.
The study, commissioned by the Heart of Our City Committee, looked at the local supervised consumption site (SCS) and its impacts on the surrounding area over a 13-month period.
Dr. Em Pijl and the University of Lethbridge’s faculty of health sciences conducted the study, researching the social conditions before and after the SCS opened in Lethbridge. The results suggest the underlying social issues are having a clear impact on the area.
“It basically showed there are increasing antisocial behaviour and social disorder related primarily to the drug crisis that is happening and lack of services we are experiencing,” Pijl said.
Some of the key findings in the report indicate the drug crisis and underlying social issues are having a clear impact on those who live, work, and/or conduct business or social activities downtown. The study conducted its research directly with the businesses in and around the SCS and Lethbridge’s downtown.
“It gives people an opportunity to provide their observations and perceptions about what’s happening in the area around their business and, overall it paints a picture that we have social disorder in the downtown,” Pijl added.
The report also says the antisocial behaviours cannot be unequivocally and entirely attributed to the SCS, due largely to sample size and an ongoing drug epidemic.
It also reads that while the rest of the city benefits from localizing a social issue into a single neighbourhood, the area around the site disproportionately bears the burden of improvements seen elsewhere.
ARCHES Lethbridge issued a statement in response to the report.
“The Urban Social Issues Study was modelled to measure perception of social disorder in the downtown,” said Takara Motz, ARCHES’ data and evaluation manager. “As Dr. Pijl indicated, social disorder is driven by poverty, substance use, trauma, isolation, homelessness, etc., not by services.
“All cities have social disorder issues, with or without supervised consumption services,” Motz added. “In the absence of appropriate and/or accessible services, community issues only move or centralize around existing services.
“As Dr. Pijl also stated we often view substance use as a moral failing instead of a health issue with complex underlying factors, which may increase perceptions of social disorder.
“ARCHES and other service providers are committed to continuing to deliver mitigation strategies such as needle pickup, COAP, security, working in partnership with Clean Sweep and the Diversion Outreach Team as well as continue to host monthly neighbourhood relations meetings in order to address public concerns.”
The cost of the study was approximately $10,000.