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Calgary police support province’s move towards safe consumption sites

Calgary police said they will act as support to the services offering the safe consumption sites

Fentanyl has presented an increasing opioid addiction problem in Alberta– something safe consumption sites can help address.

Metro File Photo

Fentanyl has presented an increasing opioid addiction problem in Alberta– something safe consumption sites can help address.

The Calgary Police Service is putting their support firmly behind the province’s decision to explore the use of supervised safe consumption sites to combat the ever-growing opioid problem in Alberta. 

Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta said CPS will act as a supporter as the sites are set up. He said it will be one service in what he hopes is a multi-faceted approach in dealing with the issue. 

 “The sites that are proposed are not just safe consumption sites, they’re more than that,” he said.  “They’ll hopefully going to provide wrap-around services to deal with the person's addictions.”

Dr. Thomas Kerr, co-director of the Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS said there are a few things people need to know about safe injection and consumption sites.

Kerr said the sites reduce public disorder by bringing people indoors and out of public spaces when consuming as well as significantly reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission through things like syringe sharing, and they provide emergency response. 

“Those things aren’t contingent on having a whole bunch of other services around,” he said. 

Kerr said however, that it’s obviously better when there’s a full contingent of supports available through the sites. 

“We know that supervised injecting sites are excellent vehicles for connecting people to other forms of care such as addiction treatment,” he said. “The point is clear: if you don’t have those services then you have nowhere to refer people to. “

Kerr said in Vancouver they saw a 30 per cent increase in just one year of safe site users entering abstinence-based programs.  

Schiavetta said they’ve learned a lot from Vancouver’s model for safe injection sites, but the sites are in an area that’s known to have a high volume of users, whereas in Calgary the majority of overdoses are happening in suburban communities. 

“What the sites are going to look like, I’m not sure,” he said. “Will they be standalone, will they be mobile clinics like Safeworks?”

Kerr said one of the hurdles Alberta will have to overcome with this issue is dissenters who argue the sites will increase crime and enable drug use. 

“People see these as controversial interventions for no particularly good reason,” he said. “In fact it’s a very simple medical intervention with very predictable effects and those predictable effects have been evaluated and found to bear truth.”

Kerr said there are more than 90 safe consumption sites throughout the world with over a decade of experience. 

“We need to honour that experience, honour the scientific evidence of this and not recreate dramas that have already been assessed and found not to occur.”

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