Red Deerians talk supervised consumption town hall

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption town hall

Red Deerians came out in droves to share their impassioned thoughts on an issue being hotly-debated not only in our city, but across the province.

Nearly 300 people packed into the Santano Room at the Cambridge Inn and Suites Tuesday night for a town hall meeting on the Socio-Economic Assessment of Supervised Consumption Services (SCS).

Red Deer was the third stop on the town hall tour following Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.

“We’re already seeing commonalities right across the board, and some of the same differences, frankly,” said Rod Knecht, chair of the provincial government’s eight-person committee that is hosting the sessions. “Obviously, it’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and I think with emotion comes polarization.”

A temporary overdose prevention site has been operating in Red Deer for nearly a year. Work on a permanent supervised consumption services site was halted earlier this year under order from the newly-elected UCP government pending a review of SCS.

People speaking at Tuesday’s town hall were asked to focus their remarks on two questions – How do you feel supervised consumption services have impacted the community, positively or negatively? What future solutions or ideas should this committee consider that might help address some of the adverse or unintended social or economic impacts (of supervised consumption)?

Many of those who spoke to the committee were there to talk about one thing – crime.

“At night it’s a gong show. People running around naked, shooting up, police nearly every night,” said a woman who lives near The Mustard Seed. “I’d like to take back our city. The more services we’re offering, the more addicts we’re bringing in from western Canada.”

“The city is angry,” another woman declared. “We’ve worked hard to make Red Deer inviting, but this is driving people away.”

“Get rid of these buildings, get rid of them. The government should not be paying for them,” another woman implored. “Stop putting them in our areas. We do not want them.”

“The fact that this saves lives needs to be part of the conversation,” said Shawn Pickett, a Turning Point board member. “(There is) breakdown in communication between city and province that needs to change if we’re going to get anywhere.”

A downtown business suggested to the committee, “Put the money into mental health housing and detox. We don’t need any more band-aid solutions.” The comment drew loud applause from the large crowd.

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption town hall 1

The committee will analyze the evidence gathered from the town hall meetings and submit a report to the provincial government for consideration in future policy decisions regarding SCS.

Those who were unable to attend Tuesday’s town hall meeting can share their thoughts by visiting www.alberta.ca/scsreview or emailing scs.review@gov.ab.ca