Feedback from Our Community Engagement
The Coalition’s nine Community Discussion Groups held through the month of July wrapped up on July 20th. These were attended by a total number of 105 local residents. Each session utilized an identical format, which progressed as follows: a large group presentation, break-out groups that circulated between three stations, the sharing of a lived experience by a population expert, and a question and answer period. The three stations that the break-out groups circulated through were: Physical Space and Regulations, Wrap-Around Services, and Medical Services. The Community Discussion Groups were hosted at five different venues spread across the city in order to allow diverse populations to attend. These spaces were donated by partnering agencies which included the Lethbridge Public Library, Lethbridge College, Alberta Health Services, City Hall, and Boys and Girls Club of Lethbridge.
During the Community Discussion Groups, attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions, both at the individual stations as well as at the larger group question and answer period at the end. Questions regarding Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) that arose from these groups were recorded at each session, compiled, and coded into thematic categories as follows: Data and Research, Operations, Overdose, Location, Wrap-Around Services, Policing, and Environment Management.
A brief description of the operation of the categories and some examples of the questions that arose in each of them are as follows:
Data and Research
Data and Research Participants who expressed interest in completing their own research, or had questions regarding the sources of information presented at the Community Discussion Groups were provided with the list of references (peer-reviewed scholarly articles) that ARCHES used in the development of their materials.
Do studies show that SCS are effective?
Is research based on European facilities transferable to North American sites?
Did your user survey indicate that local drug users will use this facility?
Is the overdose problem significant enough in Lethbridge to warrant an SCS?
ARCHES answered all operational questions based on the Policy and Procedure Manual that is being submitted as a component of the federal exemption application (see Appendix A). Because many of the session attendees were already familiar with ARCHES’ operations, the majority of questions were oriented around operations of the prospective SCS.
At the Physical Space and Regulations station, participants were shown the proposed floor-plan and were provided with a virtual “tour” of the space in order to demonstrate flow of traffic. In addition, this station included an overview of the facility’s hours of operations, security and emergency response protocol, and basic rules and regulations.
What will the hours of operation be?
Will people live/sleep at the facility?
What will the building look like?
Will methods other than injection be allowed?
At the Medical Services station, ARCHES’ registered nurses addressed all questions regarding overdose prevention and response, naloxone training, distribution, and administration, vein/wound care, HIV, and HCV. Representatives from both Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services and Alberta Health Services were also present to address any questions pertaining to ambulance calls, emergency room visits, local statistics (including overdoses and fatalities), and current strains on the larger health care systems.
What are the effects of Naloxone and how/when will it be administered?
Who can administer Naloxone in the community (outside of the SCS)?
Will EMS be called for every overdose in the SCS?
How many fatalities have happened in Lethbridge due to overdose?
Unfortunately, ARCHES was unable to provide concrete answers to participants with questions regarding the location of a prospective supervised consumption facility. Attendees repeatedly expressed concern over the prospect that SCS may be embedded into ARCHES’ current location. Facilitators at the Community Discussion Group reassured attendees that this would not be the case, as ARCHES’ current building is located in a residential area that is not easily accessible for the SCS’s target population.
Will the SCS facility be located in a residential area?
Why can’t the SCS be embedded into ARCHES current location?
Have you considered a mobile site?
One of the stations at the Community Discussion Groups was dedicated specifically to Wrap-Around Services. This station was facilitated by an ARCHES staff person (either Addictions Counselor or Outreach Coordinator) as well as a Coalition partner (representatives from Child and Family Services, Alberta Health Services Addiction and Mental Health, and/or Probation Community Corrections). Facilitators at this station provided information and answered questions regarding: addictions counseling, access to treatment/detox, mental health supports, drop-in services (kitchen, laundry, and showers), cultural programming, harm reduction education, and partnerships with other community service agencies.
Will there be an option for clients of the SCS to fast-track to detox/treatment?
What other services will be provided on site (housing, peer support, HIV testing, etc)?
Are addictions counselors available at all times?
Will there be FNMI programming available at the facility?
Policing A representative from the Lethbridge Police Service was present at the Physical Space and Regulations station and was able to address any questions regarding policing, drug dealing, and general legality concerns regarding SCS. Police spoke strongly in support of these services and outlined the role that they foresee playing in the successful operations of SCS in Lethbridge.
What are the possession limits (for each type of drug) in the Supervised Consumption facility?
How will you prevent/manage drug dealing?
How will police deal with users on the way to/from the facility?
What strategies do you have planned for dealing with drug dealers?
Questions regarding Environment Management were answered at the Physical Space and Regulations station. A recurring concern arose regarding the levels of drug use debris that residents and business owners are finding within the community, as well as with increased levels of public drug use that have been observed. These concerns were addressed in accordance with ARCHES’ Environment Management and Good Neighbour Strategy, (see Facility Operations and Environment Management).
How will you prevent loitering around the building?
Will community partners and volunteers assist ARCHES with drug use debris pickup?
How do you plan to respond to people who are supportive of the service, but are experiencing NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard)?
Responses to attendee questions were provided by whichever Coalition member was most well-informed on the subject matter. Many of the attendees were representing community service agencies, or people who had knowledge in the field and/or a pre-existing relationship with ARCHES. As such, the vast majority of attendees were supportive of supervised consumption services. Of those who had initially expressed opposition, many reported that they were leaving the sessions feeling more informed and open to the concept of supervised consumption services.