Shelley Williams – Ex Director at HIV Edmonton for 8 years, I was Chair of the Coalition known as Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton, and was the executive director of Bissell Centre for 10 years. Bissell Centre has been providing supports and services to people in these communities for over a hundred years. These are not new issues in the community.
Crime, garbage, tent cities, homelessness, poverty, real estate prices, policing, and the success of businesses cannot be tied directly to SCS.
These issues and dialogues have been around for a long time and continue to be important. We do need to address them but Consumption services should not be the punching bag for these or for the lack of governments’ leadership in addressing them.
Taking them away – the issues being identified will NOT disappear.
The indisputable evidence clearly shows that SCS has a positive impact in our community. The reversal of an overdose means a life has been saved! To support a person who inject substances by helping them out of the back alleys and into a safer and respectful environment is the right way to address a societal issue that has been shunned. Punishing, telling people to stop or putting our heads in the ground - hoping that it will go away -- hasn’t worked. It takes acknowledgement, effort and quite frankly leadership to develop a range of supports. I commend the community organizations for their leadership. Consumption Services is the first critical service within the spectrum that is necessary because it keeps people alive AND provides the opportunity to develop a relationship and information as appropriate, when people are ready, of other possibilities.
Edmonton tailored a strategy to meet the complex issues of people who would be using the services. Rather than building one stand-alone, storefront facility, such as Insite in Vancouver, the unique model took one site of 13 booths and dispersed micro sized services within community agencies that are already within the area and where the people are - who would utilize the program. The three sites have booths of 5, 5, and 3 making up the equivalency of one site. This is important - they are not 3 stand alone sites as being suggested. They also provide other health and social supports.
There is work to be done, we need solutions - more services, more innovation, support to communities, and better municipal, provincial and federal strategies to address the range of issues that have been brought forward. BUT it cannot be at the cost of SCS. It is an essential health service and one that is within the fabric of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – both sections 7 and 15; legal and equality rights. It is an effective service to support the being in human being.
I implore the panel to be just and thoughtful. Ensure you decipher the comments heard appropriately, recommend that the document be public and make recommendations that include the continuation and expansion of SCS across the province.