Supervised Consumption Services
On August 31, 2018, the Minister of Health used her authority to mandate the operation of an Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) in Red Deer, directing that Safe Harbour be the temporary location from October 1, 2018 until October 1, 2019.
What is the difference between Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) and an Overdose Prevention Site (OPS)?
Essentially, the permanency and services offered at these sites is what sets them apart from one another. An SCS site is permanent whereas an OPS facility is temporary and is meant to address an immediate need. An OPS can be set up in a matter of weeks because they do not require community surveys or consultations. In addition, OPS facilities do not have to provide access to additional health and social supports for those who use substances whereas an SCS does provide these services.
Current status of SCS in Red Deer:
- There is no SCS facility in Red Deer.
- SCS sites are not operated or funded by The City of Red Deer as health is a provincial responsibility.
- The City’s role in SCS is to ensure proper bylaws are in place so an external agency can apply, operate and manage the service at select location in the city.
- Through a series of bylaw amendments earlier this year, Red Deer City Council approved two potential SCS sites: the Red Deer Regional Hospital (permanent/mobile) or Safe Harbour (mobile only).
- Before an SCS site can open, an external agency must apply for a federal exemption. They must also obtain the necessary permits and a business licence from The City of Red Deer.
- When a service provider applies to operate a mobile SCS unit, the applicant must notify property owners and occupants located within 100 meters of the proposed site before an application is accepted. This gives citizens an opportunity to influence the terms and conditions of the license to operate; this may include hours of operation or anything else in the public interest. The process does not apply in the case of the current OPS as the Province of Alberta chose to use their municipal authority to select and operate a site; therefore, the Province opted not to conduct public consultation.
- Red Deer City Council has and continues to call on the Province of Alberta to meet and respond to the issue of community safety as it relates to SCS and/or OPS facilities in Red Deer. The Province of Alberta remains unresponsive in their support and funding for drug and needle debris clean-up and related community safety issues.
- Red Deer City Council has called on the Province of Alberta to assume responsibility for the impact of needle distribution in the community by funding The City’s cost for needle clean up and/or implementing a needle exchange program. With the exception of $80,000 allocated for clean-up in relation to the opening of Red Deer’s OPS site, the Province of Alberta has provided minimal funding or support in this area.
- The City of Red Deer continues to request that the Province develop long-term solutions for Red Deer’s vulnerable population, including an integrated shelter with on-site support services, harm reduction strategies, emergency housing and residential treatment.
- Following a number of letters to the provincial government in 2017/18, Mayor Veer and members of City Council met with the Minister of Health at the 2018 Alberta Urban Municipalities Conference in September 2018 to discuss plans, potential options/locations related to supervised consumption services in Red Deer.
The City developed and funded the Alcohol and Drug Strategy, which focuses on a four-pillar approach: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. The City has petitioned the Province to look beyond harm reduction and develop an overall response to the drug and health crisis. Alberta Health Services should take on a direct role, versus contracting this work out to multiple agencies with limited resources. This is a health issue.