City council grants first reading to supervised consumption site location

A public hearing on the site is set for Nov. 13th

Red Deer City council gave first reading to a land use amendment to locate a supervised consumption service and an institutional service facility at 5233 – 54th Ave. in the Railyards neighbourhood.

The proposed site is large enough to accommodate all the services provided by Turning Point including supervised consumption services.

The site also contains a vacant building, and future renovations would accommodate the proposed supervised consumption service and an institutional service facility, council was told.

The adjacent sites in the area include a mix of institutional services, commercial recreation, merchandise sales and service, a detoxification centre and an overnight shelter, said Emily Damberger, planning manager for the City of Red Deer.

“There would be renovations that would need to be done for the building,” she said. “It is an area in transition,” she added.

Council was also told the proposed site was the result of a recommendation from the Supervised Consumption Site Committee which consists of representatives of Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, Turning Point and Safe Harbour.

“What I’m hearing tonight is hope,” said Coun. Ken Johnston, adding that sense of hope spreads across all those in the fight against the “Curse and the beast of opioid addiction.

“Tonight we are faced with the reality that the statistics are telling us the tragedy is getting worse,” he said. “Now is the time for us to be able to squarely address harm prevention, and I believe that we can get it right,” he said.

“This is our opportunity to make a stand, and I’m very, very happy to support first reading,” said Johnston.

Coun. Buck Buchanan agreed, adding that it will be key to gather public input as well.

“I’m prepared to support first reading, and let’s see what people tell us,” he said.

Coun. Tanya Handley also introduced an amendment that will broaden the scope of direct public input within the proposed neighbourhood.

Mayor Tara Veer said that the public hearing itself is also imperative, as it’s, “Our citizens’ democratic right to speak so they can convey their opinions on the matter before council.

“We do have a responsibility to make provision through land use, but it’s not without its effects in the surrounding area. So that really is the balance that council will need to contemplate,” she said.

Originally, the City’s proposal was to zone the hospital for supervised consumption site services, but Alberta Health Services didn’t support this location and the City didn’t support the expansion of services at the current Turning Point facility on Gaetz Ave.

Meanwhile, following first reading, dialogue with the community will now take place for council’s consideration prior to the public hearing slated for Nov. 13th.

Turning Point also had submitted a letter to council, noting that the site would include room for reception, consumption, observation and space to access additional supports. These would include wrap-around services in addition to client services.

Programming would also run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The facility would include a reception area, a consumption room, an observation room, a ‘chill out’ space and offices.

“With a successful development permit application, we will start working quickly on the building permit and renovations for the (supervised consumption services). As indicated, the second phase of moving Turning Point’s other programs and operations will take longer and we estimate it may take up to one year,” the letter continued.

Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point Society, said that she was happy they passed first reading. “It gives us the opportunity to have more conversations with the community and to prepare our presentation for council to consider second and third reading,” she said.

A statement was also released from Alberta Health Services in the wake of first reading being passed.

“(Supervised consumption services) is about reducing harm and overdose death and offering additional services as well as referrals to opioid-dependency treatment,” said Kerry Bales, chief zone officer – Central Zone, AHS.

“AHS is encouraged by this first step in approving SCS and saving lives while providing options when clients are ready for change.”

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