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MLA Shannon Phillips and others react to ARCHES losing provincial funding after government-ordered audit

Click to play video: 'MLA Shannon Phillips, other officials react to ARCHES losing provincial funding after audit shows funding misuse' MLA Shannon Phillips, other officials react to ARCHES losing provincial funding after audit shows funding misuse
WATCH ABOVE: A government-issued audit of the operators of Lethbridge’s ARCHES supervised consumption site showed a variety of funding misappropriations with taxpayers’ money over the last three years. Eloise Therien has a look at what might happen going forward, and how some prominent Lethbridge figures are taking the news – Jul 17, 2020
On Thursday, the Government of Alberta announced it would be pulling all grant funding from ARCHES in Lethbridge after an audit cited “funding misappropriation, non-compliance with grant agreement [and] inappropriate governance and organizational operations.”

ARCHES has been operating in Lethbridge since 1986, starting under the name Lethbridge HIV Connection. It has since evolved to provide a wider variety of services, including the supervised consumption site (SCS) located at 1016 1 Ave. S.

The full report and background can be found here.

Read more: Lethbridge supervised drug consumption site exceeding expectations: report

According to the Government of Canada website, SCS are typically set up in areas where there is public drug use, and close to established illegal drug markets. However, the Lethbridge location is close to quite a few stores, including a bike service shop, a musical instrument store and a carpet company.

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Hamilton’s Carpet One shares an alleyway with the site, and owner Doug Hamilton says its opening has impacted his business.

“I have been concerned about the management of the supervised consumption site for some time now,” he told Global News in an email. “That said, I am very disappointed to see the misappropriation and lack of financial accountability that has taken place with [ARCHES].”

Dave Khallil, manager at Long and McQuade, said that although his store is located within close proximity to the SCS, the impact hasn’t been as negative as he expected.

“It didn’t impact us as negatively as it could have,” he said. “I think our lesson department is probably the thing that suffered the most with it.

“There [are] individuals that are just not comfortable coming down here after hours.”

Khallil added that he isn’t sure if the site closing down would be positive or negative for the community moving forward, and that more details are needed.

“We haven’t been hit as hard as some of the other business in the area,” he noted.

Read more: Alberta government audits Arches-run Supervised Consumption Site in Lethbridge

Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips has been an avid supporter of the SCS, and was unavailable for interview Friday. However, she did issue a statement about the matter.

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“I share the community’s deep disappointment at this mismanagement of taxpayers’ money,” the statement reads in part. “Like MLA Nathan Neudorf, I continue to believe that supervised consumption helps keep Lethbridge safer as part of a full range of public health services.

“I urge the provincial government to immediately appoint a trustee to directly supervise operations so that these services can continue in a transparent and accountable way.”

In an email to Global News Friday afternoon, a representative of ARCHES said the board of directors “will not be able to provide an update today as they are still awaiting information from the Alberta government.”

“They have been told to expect direct communication early next week and are committed to providing the community with an update at that time. ”

The statement went on to say ARCHES “will continue to support the staff during this time so that they can maintain care for the clients.”

ARCHES did not answer any further questions pertaining to the audit or the site’s current operations.

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