Medically Supervised Consumption Services in Lethbridge
The plan is to integrate medically supervised consumption services into an existing agency; ARCHES (AIDS Outreach Community Harm Reduction Education Support) Society.
Supervised consumption services are designed to support people who use substances.
These people are usually street-involved and may consume in unsafe spaces such as: parks, back alleys, behind dumpsters, along fences, and in agency and public washrooms.
These are people whom ARCHES already serves.
Staff teams will include nurses, counselors, addictions workers, peer support workers, and housing workers.
Why Supervised Consumption Services work:
- Provide an entry point to wrap-around social supports, primary health care, and treatment.
- Support access to shelter, food, and clothing.
- Links to detox, transitional recovery, and addiction and mental health treatment.
- Links to diagnosis, care for chronic infectious and non-infectious conditions, and overdose prevention.
Consuming drugs in public places is associated with a high risk of disease transmission and overdose – as well as people in Lethbridge, were surveyed about their experiences over the previous six months.
67% had injected in public
47% had witnessed needle sharing amongst their peers
24% had experiences one or more non-fatal overdoses
23% had unsafely disposed of syringes
25% had difficulty getting sterile syringes when needed – 50% cited operating hours as the main access barrier
72% typically use drugs three or more times per day
82% of those who inject drugs were willing to attend supervised injection services.
Why They Are Important
Medically supervised consumption services reduce many of the risks and health care costs of unsafe drug use. Public consumption is associated with a major increase in all the known risks of drug use:
- Transmission of Hepatitis C and HIV
- Bacterial infections of the skin, blood stream, heart valves, and joints.
Clean, safe places to consume drugs dramatically reduce these risks and provide opportunities to engage with people who use drugs.
Evidence through research tells us supervised consumption services lead to:
Fewer deaths from overdose. To date, no one has died while using supervised consumption services.
Increased uptake into primary care and treatment.
Increased community safety – Five years after Sydney, Australia began providing services, local business owners reported a significant decrease in public injecting or publicly discarded injecting equipment.
Decreased neighborhood crime – Studies show that incidences such as thefts and vehicle break-ins tend to go down after supervised injection services are established.
Financial costs of the status quo on our healthcare system spending in 2016:
Lifetime Hepatitis C Treatment: $64,694/ person
Lifetime Economic Loss of HIV: $1,300,000/ person
- Healthcare- $250,000/ person
- Labor Productivity- $670,000/ person
- Quality of Life- $380,000/ person
Emergency Department Visits: $200/ visit
- South zone in Alberta has the highest number of ER visits for opiate poisoning by more than 24%
Serious skin, soft tissue, joint, bloodstream, and heart valve infections: $48,950 + physician costs
Integrated Into Existing Services
Medically supervised consumption services will be embedded into an existing organization in order to provide wrap-around supports. Supervised consumption services are one resource amongst many that are offered to improve the health of people who use substances.
Supervised consumption services are one component of harm reduction. They provide a hygienic environment for people to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of a nurse.
Individuals are offered:
- Attention to medical needs that require an immediate response.
- Sterile drug-using equipment.
- Education on safer consumption methods, overdose prevention, and intervention.
- Medical and counseling services.
- Referrals to drug treatment, housing, income support, and other services.
Each person discusses the substances they have used recently and what they plan to take. The focus is on accessibility, building relationships, and connecting people with appropriate supports to be healthier and to stay alive.
What Will Supervised Consumption Services Look Like?
Within the facility, there will be:
- A waiting and intake space.
- Two supervised consumption rooms – both the injection room and the inhalation room will be calm and hygienic environments with stations equipped with a table, chair, and a mirror for observation by a nurse.
- A monitoring space – after consumption, people have a separate space where they are monitored for negative reactions to their drugs. They can talk with the nurse, social worker/addictions worker, or peer support worker about resources they have in place and how to connect with other health and social supports.
- Sterile drug-using equipment distribution and disposal.
Hours of Operation
9:00am – 2:00am
The Supervised Consumption Facility will be open 7 days/week, 365 days/year
- The Supervised Consumption Facility will host monthly Open Houses for community members to view the facility and ask questions.
- The facility will employ a “Good Neighbor” strategy, which will include the following:
- The staff of the facility will organize monthly meetings with neighbors and police in order to ensure that any concerns are being addressed in a timely fashion.
- Substance Use Debris Sweeps (SUDS) will be completed every morning within a five-block radius of the facility.
- Staff will operate a telephone reporting line for community members to contact in the case of substance use debris pick-ups.
- The facility will utilize 24-hour surveillance cameras, both inside and outside the building.
- The facility will employ on-site security.
- Police will be contacted only in the case of criminal matters, or to resolve situations which are outside the scope of on-site security.
Rules and Regulations
- Persons must be at least 18 years of age to access the Supervised Consumption component of services. Other drop-in services and programming are available for all ages.
- Partner assisted injection is prohibited.
- Time spent in the Drug Consumption Room(s) is limited to 30-45 minutes.
- Following drug consumption, there is a mandatory waiting period of 15 minutes (to observe/monitor for overdose)
- Selling, providing/sharing, and trading drugs is prohibited on site.
- Violence against persons or things will not be tolerated under any circumstances.