City council grants second and third reading for a supervised consumption site

The site itself is large enough to accommodate all the services provided by Turning Point

City council passed second and third reading for a land use bylaw amendment granting the green light for a supervised consumption site to be located at 5233 – 54th Ave. during Monday’s meeting.

An amendment was added that the supervised consumption site must have a monitored internal and external digital camera security system and personnel to perform regular surveillance during hours of operation.

Another amendment passed speaks to complying with design elements that incorporate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.

“The City has a legal and ethical imperative to approve a site,” said Mayor Tara Veer, who ultimately didn’t support third reading.

Councillors Tanya Handley and Vesna Higham didn’t support third reading as well.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes had to sit out the discussion as she wasn’t able to attend the public hearing in early November.

“The Province of Alberta is calling for the operation of a supervised consumption site in our City, and we are therefore required to determine a location that considers and acknowledges the needs of all citizens in our City,” she said.

“The Government of Alberta has opted to not pursue either the Red Deer Regional Hospital site or mobile services as previously approved and preferred by City council,” she added.

Veer said she felt that after the public hearing, and studying the body of work that came back to council, that the appropriate location would have been Safe Harbour.

“The reason I indicated that is that it became very clear through the public hearing that individuals who would be using the supervised consumption services in many respects were the same individuals who were also provided services at Safe Harbour,” she said, adding that this was her personal position.

During a public hearing held earlier this month, council had heard strong arguments both for and against the site from the public, including some businesses and organizations that are located near the site.

The site itself is large enough to accommodate all the services provided by Turning Point including supervised consumption services, and also contains a vacant building.

Adjacent sites in the area include a mix of institutional services, commercial recreation, merchandise sales and service, a detoxification centre and an overnight shelter.

Veer said that the topic of supervised consumption has been a polarizing issue in the community, and that, “City council will continue to petition the Province to look beyond harm reduction and develop an overall response to the drug and health crisis with a focus on a four-pillar approach: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.

“The City expects Alberta Health Services to take on a direct role in responding to our community’s challenges, versus contracting this work out to multiple agencies with limited resources,” she said.

Coun. Ken Johnston said the problems downtown just aren’t getting better.

“What we do know for sure is that the status quo in our downtown in not working. And what we do know for sure, I submit, is that the province is not coming to that problem anytime soon,” he said, adding he’d like to see an overall summit held locally which would bring together a spectrum of sectors from Red Deer to help figure out further solutions. “I think we can get something that works for all parties in our City,” he said.

The next step towards getting the site operational is consideration of the development permit application which will be considered by council down the road.

Meanwhile, Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point, said that she was extremely pleased with council’s decision.

“We know it didn’t come lightly, and we know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are really excited to be offering this service and we are looking very forward to getting a full-fledged supervised consumption service up and running,” she added. “This is a really good solution.

“We really want to move as quickly as possible.”

Carmichael said concerns raised by neighbouring businesses and organization will be addressed, “Through a variety of things we will put in place. Of course, it will (also) be an ongoing conversation and improving as we go.”

In a statement, Alberta Health Services representatives said they were encouraged by council’s approval for supervised consumption services at this site.

Kerry Bales, chief zone officer with Alberta Health Services – Central Zone, noted that, “We look forward to Turning Point operating a SCS in Red Deer.

“Supervised consumption services provide a place where people can use previously-obtained substances in a monitored environment to reduce harm and overdose death while offering additional services such as counselling, social supports and access to treatment options.”

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