The most complex decision I’ve made as a City Councillor was to vote in favor of supervised injection services in Ward 6.
Admittedly, city council’s role was minor. We were asked only to send a letter to Ottawa in regards to safe injection services. Alberta Health was the lead agency on the initiative. The federal government had to amend regulations to allow it.
But it was city council, the government closest to the people, that took the brunt of the public outrage. I spoke out about it, then, complaining that the other orders of government were only to happy to allow city council to take the blame.
I hated voting for safe injection services in two Ward 6 Neighbourhoods, because I knew many businesses and residents would see it as piling on. The Neighbourhoods are challenged already. But where critics saw this as adding to the burden of social disorder, many of us saw it as a potential solution.
We are also in the midst of a opioid crisis. Government has a duty of care to all of its citizens.
I also strongly believe addiction is an illness like many others, with biological and social causes. Therefore, people with addiction deserve medical care, as opposed to merely arrest and incarceration.
During council’s debate on safe injection, I made a motion, supported by a majority on council, to establish a public committee to oversee and report on the activities at the safe injection sites. The committee is formed and made up of community and business representatives. It has met a few times now and recently released the following information.
- Over 6,000 safe injections have occurred from over 650 unique individuals inside the safety of the supervised consumption locations as opposed to outside in public spaces.
- 47 overdoses have been reversed in the supervised consumption locations since Boyle Street opened on March 23, 2018 and George Spady opened on April 23, 2018.
- Supervised consumption locations provide an additional opportunity for nurses and staff to build relationships to connect people to wrap around services.
- Since the locations opened over 1,239 service referrals have been made with many of these referrals to addictions and mental health programs.
- The data is evolving.
- Based on individuals accessing the services to date there’s a smaller group of regular individuals from the core communities, not people coming from other areas of the city.
Edmonton Police Service also shared at the most recent meeting of the Committee that there had been no substantial increase in drug or other related crime in the area since the services started operating.
That’s 6,000 fewer injections in public, reduced risk of those used needles being discarded improperly, and 47 instances where a potentially fatal outcome was avoided.
By Scott McKeen, City Councillor Ward 6