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Supervised consumption services consultation begins

Calgarians are invited to provide feedback on proposed supervised consumption services at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre.

In May, Alberta Health Services submitted an application to the federal government, proposing to provide supervised consumption services at the health facility in Calgary’s central core. Community consultation is a key element in the application process. 

“Alberta Health Services and community coalitions are working hard to bring supervised consumption services to Calgary in a way that residents and businesses can support. Our first priority must be to keep Albertans alive – and having supervised consumption services available for Albertans who use substances will do that while providing wrap-around health and treatment supports.”

Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health

The Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre was identified as a potential site for supervised consumption services as it provides a range of wrap-around supports, including opioid dependency treatment and a needle-distribution program.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin have written letters of support to accompany the federal application.   

“The data are very clear on this: supervised consumption services save lives. The Sheldon Chumir Health Centre is on the front lines of our opioid crisis and is the right location to help our fellow citizens when they are most vulnerable. Our coordinated and integrated approach balances harm reduction, treatment, prevention and enforcement. Together, we will keep Calgarians safe while reducing deaths and helping people struggling with addiction to chart a path to a better life.”

Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary

“It is not a crime to be addicted. Having an avenue to develop relationships with our vulnerable populations will help us find opportunities to get them the treatment they need to find their way out of addiction. This in turn will assist in addressing the root causes of drug-related crime.”

Roger Chaffin, Chief, Calgary Police Service

"Good people can fall victim to addictions so it's important that public health services are accessible to those who are suffering and that they are not pushed onto the streets. That's why we are supporting AHS in consulting with local residents and businesses on the proposed new services at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre."

Peter Oliver, president, Beltline Neighbourhoods Association

“As a mother who knows the pain of losing a child to an overdose, who represents hundreds more in the same position, I fully support supervised consumption services because they save lives, minimize health risks and connect people with services and treatment options. To put it bluntly: Dead people do not recover. We have to give everyone a chance and the help they need to take a different path on another day.”

Petra Schulz, Moms Stop The Harm

Supervised consumption services give people the option to use drugs in a monitored, clean environment to reduce harm from substance use, while offering additional services such as counselling, social work and opioid dependency treatment. Research shows supervised consumption services do not increase drug use or criminal activity.

“Alberta Health Services is committed to working with our partners in providing evidence-based harm-reduction programming that has been shown to reduce overdose deaths, transmission of disease, public substance use, and discarded needles. This is about keeping Calgarians safe and building safer communities.”

Dr. Nicholas Etches, Medical Officer of Health, Calgary Zone,  Alberta Health Services

Next steps

  • Alberta Health Services will send out postcards to residents and businesses within a two-kilometre radius of the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre. The postcard will ask people to call or email with their interest in participating in small-group discussions.
  • Postcards, posters and social media posts will be used to inform the community of upcoming and ongoing engagement opportunities. Prospective participants will be asked to register in advance to reserve their spot. Information for the community conversation groups will be available on the Calgary sub-page of the stopods.ca webpage or by emailing scs.calgary@ahs.ca or calling 1-877-275-8830. Additional sessions will be added based on public interest to ensure all community members have an opportunity to join the conversation.
  • Posters will go up at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre and in local residential buildings, and sent to community partners to share with their networks.
  • Safeworks, AHS’s harm-reduction and needle-distribution service, will invite potential clients and families to participate.

Quick facts

  • For more than a decade, Vancouver was the only city in North America with supervised consumption services. This year, Health Canada has approved three supervised consumption sites in Montreal, two in Surrey, a third Vancouver site and three sites in Toronto. Health Canada is reviewing applications from cities including Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Victoria, Kelowna and Kamloops.
  • Alberta has also provided $1.03 million to support needs assessments, coalition-building and the development of federal applications in Calgary, Edmonton and other communities. Of that, the Calgary Coalition on Supervised Consumption Services received $260,000 to conduct a needs assessment and identify potential locations where additional supervised consumption services might be needed in Calgary.
  • In order to establish supervised consumption services, an application must be made to Health Canada for an exemption for medical purposes under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
  • In 2016, 363 people died of apparent drug overdoses related to fentanyl in Alberta, compared with 257 in 2015.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, 113 people died of apparent fentanyl overdoses, compared with 70 in the first quarter of 2016.

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