Supervised consumption services review

An expert committee reviewed the social and economic impacts of current and proposed supervised consumption services.

Status: Results under review
Ministry responsible: Health


The Supervised Consumption Services Review Committee was appointed to evaluate the social and economic impacts of current and proposed supervised consumption sites.

The committee brought together experts in business, real estate, population economics, social demography, research ethics, lived experience, addiction and recovery, harm reduction, First Nations health, mental health, trauma, pain management, law enforcement, crime reduction and justice.

They heard from Albertans to better understand their concerns and how these services affect their communities.

Review objectives

The objectives of the review were to:

  • minimize the adverse social and economic impacts of existing supervised consumption sites (SCS) on local neighbourhoods
  • help inform decisions around the establishment of future SCS and reduce the potential for negative social and economic impacts
  • help inform a provincial policy that outlines required criteria for provincial funding of SCS

Public engagement

Engagement activities as part of the review included:

  • 16,831 individuals and 440 businesses submitted feedback online
  • 50 engagement sessions were held with stakeholder groups including municipalities, law enforcement, business and community organizations
  • more than 1,800 people attended town halls in Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Grande Prairie
  • 570 first responders completed a specific first responder survey in October

The submission period closed September 30, 2019.


Impact: A socio-economic review of supervised consumption sites in Alberta was released on March 5, 2020. The associate minister accepted the report and is now reviewing it along with the panel's recommended considerations.

The report contained key findings, including:

  • residents felt left out of previous consultation efforts and raised questions about the adequacy of the federal consultation process requirements under Section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
  • record-keeping and data collection varied in accuracy and consistency among the sites
  • in their reporting, site operators’ definition of the term “overdose reversal” varied
  • opioid-related calls for emergency medical services and death rates in the immediate vicinity of the sites continued to increase after the sites opened
  • crime (police calls for service) also generally increased, except in Edmonton
  • residents complained about lack of response to calls for service and “de-policing” near the sites
  • an increase in needle debris on public and private property where SCS sites were located was a major concern and helped create a perception among community members of decreasing safety and increasing crime

Committee members

Rod Knecht, Chair

Rod Knecht served as Edmonton’s 22nd Chief of Police for 7 and a half years, having retired in October 2018. Prior to his service as Chief of Police, Rod was the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), ranked as the most senior uniform member of the RCMP.

Over the course of his 42 year policing career, he has spent 21 years in operational policing duties including rural, municipal and indigenous uniform policing, Major Crimes, Drug Section, Customs and Excise, Federal Section, Proceeds of Crime and Undercover Duties. He has spent a further twenty-one years in leadership roles in Ontario, Western Canada and Headquarters Ottawa, including several high profile criminal investigations and events throughout Canada and abroad.

Geri Bemister-Williams, Vice-Chair

Professor Geri Bemister-Williams is a human behavioral scientist, post-secondary instructor, interventionist and expert on substance abuse and crime reduction. Her work centres on seeking therapeutic recovery in the justice and mental health systems. Much of Professor Bemister-William’s research during her career as a criminologist has focused on the correlations between crime, trauma and substance abuse, which has made her knowledge useful at the intersection between mental health and the Canadian justice system (CJS).

She is currently developing curriculum at Red Deer College focused on aboriginal issues in the CJS. Her expertise has been utilized at the national and provincial levels of government as substance abuse has increasingly impacted Canadian citizens.

Dr. Ray Baker

Dr. Baker specialized in occupational addiction medicine and recovery-oriented continuing care during his career as a physician licensed in British Columbia. He also served as an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, where he directed the addiction medicine curriculum.

Dr. Baker has provided expert assistance to many organizations through consultation, policy development, personnel training, comprehensive diagnostic evaluations/treatment planning and expert testimony. He has also authored or contributed to literature on addiction treatment and served on the editorial board of the Journal of Addictive Diseases.

Steve Cormack

Steve is a 24-year veteran of the RCMP, with postings in the Alberta communities of Lac La Biche, Faust, and Red Deer. Steve spent 15 years policing the City of Red Deer in a variety of duties including general uniform patrol, Criminal Intelligence, Serious Crimes, and 6 years in Drug Enforcement.

Steve is currently a residential and commercial real estate associate at Royal Lepage Network Realty in Red Deer. He was an original member of the consortium to establish the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.

Dr. Charl Els

Dr. Charl Els is a psychiatrist, addiction specialist, and occupational physician. He completed 2 fellowships at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and holds a specialized graduate diploma in Insurance Medicine and medico-legal expertise from the University of Montreal.

For the past several years he served on the University of Alberta’s Health Research Ethics Board, and he is regularly selected to chair review panels for the Medical Panels Office in Alberta. Dr. Els is a clinical professor at both the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Medicine. He co-authored several of the clinical practice guidelines of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and serves on the Board of Directors for the Occupational and Environmental Medical Association of Canada.

Joan Hollihan

On March 17, 2015, Joan lost her beloved son Jeremy to an apparent Fentanyl overdose. He was 16 years old.

Ms. Hollihan is a principal and senior consultant in Mercer’s Calgary Health and Benefits business. Joan consults to clients in the areas of health plan design, funding and administration. She holds a bachelor of commerce (majored in finance) from the University of Calgary.

Paul Maxim

Paul Maxim is a former professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University and director of the Masters of International Public Policy program at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario. Paul joined Laurier in 2006 as the associate vice president: research. Previously, he was an associate dean and faculty member at Western University in London, Ontario.

Dr. Maxim has been a visiting scholar in the Criminology Institute at Cambridge University and in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, where he was awarded a residential scholar award by the National Bank of Denmark.

Dr. Rob Tanguay

Dr. Tanguay is a psychiatrist who completed 2 fellowships, one in addiction medicine and one in pain medicine. He is the medical lead for Alberta Opioid Addiction training for Alberta Health Services. Dr. Tanguay is the regional director for Alberta and Northwest Territories for the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) and the incoming president of the Pain Society of Alberta. He is the founder of the Opioid Deprescribing Program with Alberta Health Services and the Transitional Outpatient Pain Program for Spine (TOPPS) clinic working with spinal surgeons to optimize spinal surgery and reduce opioid use after surgery and will also become the co-chair of the AHS Alberta Pain Strategy. Dr. Tanguay is also the lead lecturer for addiction for the University of Calgary medical school.

Academically he is involved in research in addiction, chronic pain, opioids and cannabis and is a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education at the University of Calgary.