Associate Minister Jason Luan tours Red Deer’s temporary overdose prevention site
Alberta’s Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions was in Red Deer on Friday to tour the city’s temporary overdose prevention site (OPS).
Jason Luan’s UCP government, led by Premier Jason Kenney, has committed to undertaking a review of the impacts had by supervised consumption services (SCS) on the communities around them.
In Red Deer, that means a hold on funds that were expected by OPS operator Turning Point who was planning to open a permanent SCS site later this year.
Luan says he enjoyed his visit to the OPS, even having a conversation with a client who was inside at the time.
“I asked questions about what kind of drug are you using, what’s your plan, do you enjoy doing this? They’ve been very open and even shared their aspirations that they want to change, they want to get to a detox or treatment centre at some point,” said Luan.
“She talked about wanting her family back, her kids back, all the relationships she had, and drugs certainly didn’t do her good in that part and she clearly understands that.”
Following the tour, Luan met with Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and members of city council, as well a representatives of the business community. He says some shared worry over the site’s location, while most are concerned about its unintended negative impacts.
“They’re concerned about needing increased resources for the community, so a lot,” he continued. “This isn’t an issue that any order of government or any one can singlehandedly say ‘I have a solution.’ It’s a community issue. We need to work together. We all pitch in what we can.”
Stephan, the MLA for Red Deer-South, believes the status quo needs to change.
“I appreciate the great efforts of our associate minister and our new government to try and change the narrative and the approach in furtherance of the public interest,” said Stephan.
“It’s clear when we’re meeting with members from the business community that the status quo we’re currently experiencing is not in the public interest of the community that we live in, work in and raise our families in.”
Asked about the interest of the people who are using the OPS and potentially a future permanent SCS, Stephan acknowledges it’s important to help those people too.
“We want to help individuals become free of their addictions so that they can choose to live a life where they’re happy,” he stated. “It’s a challenging thing and a lot of the individuals come from challenging backgrounds. We definitely want to try and do what is right for them as well and for all members in our community.”
Stacey Carmichael, Executive Director at Turning Point, says her optimism remains steadfast following the tour of the OPS with Luan.
“They asked really great questions. I felt like it was a positive meeting. They asked about what other services we provide at Turning Point, they asked about our community partnerships and routes we provide into treatment,” she says.
“They’ve been very transparent about what their plans are, and we were assured that there would be a spot for us in the review process to provide input.”
Luan said Friday that they expect to make a decision on funding for new supervised consumption services by the end of 2019.