Lethbridge officials respond to findings of supervised consumption site review

Click to play video: 'Provincial report indicates Lethbridge supervised consumption site is facing the most concern' Provincial report indicates Lethbridge supervised consumption site is facing the most concern
WATCH ABOVE: A report reviewing supervised consumption sites in the province points out Lethbridge is the largest, and most used site in Alberta. Quinn Campbell reports – Mar 5, 2020

Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site is facing some harsh comments from a provincially-appointed committee tasked with reviewing supervised consumption sites across Alberta.

On Thursday, the government released the final report from the Supervised Consumption Services Review Committee.

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The report said the site in Lethbridge is the largest and most used, adding it may be facing the most problems in the province, with expressed concerns disproportionately higher than other sites.

“I think a lot of that feedback was perceived and not reality,” said Stacey Bourque, the executive director of ARCHES, which operates the Lethbridge site.

“There’s not another community or city that serves the number of usages inside the facility that we do in a day.”

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The report said most of the concerns in Lethbridge were directed at the operations of the site itself, how it’s being run, the behaviour of employees, apparent lack of accountability and open criminal activity around the site.

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“There’s some extreme excitement that their voices were heard,” said City Councillor Blaine Hyggen.

“I can’t emphasize enough of how the government has listened to the community and everyone in the community.

“We need to be compassionate but we also need to listen to all the other citizens that are going through these trialing times.”

The cost of the Lethbridge site was also highlighted in the report.

READ MORE: Alberta government audits Arches-run Supervised Consumption Site in Lethbridge

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It said a site visit costs $25, and within six months more than 119,000 visits cost more than $2.9 million.

The cost per client in Lethbridge came to $3,278, while the average cost per client at other sites was less than $600.

The committee said it could not find a plausible reason for such a difference in cost.

“I know the average they indicated was 136 unique users a day, approximately, but those 136 unique users are accessing the facility multiple times a day,” Bourque said.

“So it’s not unusual for us to see 800-plus users inside the facility within a 24-hour period.”

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No specific actions were outlined in the report as to what will happen to the sites, or if any will be closed.  Each site will be evaluated individually in the coming months.

On Thursday, Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said that no matter the outcome, more recovery services are needed.

“This is the number one issue that needs to be resolved and we need to continue to make progress and we can’t do it alone as the City of Lethbridge,” Spearman said.

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