More vulnerable Albertans left behind by SCS review
Albertans have once again been presented with the findings of a government-appointed review committee, and as in the case of previous reports, it reflects a predetermined outcome consistent with the ideological bent of this government. Unsurprisingly, today’s presentation of the findings of the supervised consumption services (SCS) review committee provided exactly the ideological justification that this government needs to move forward on their dangerous plan to limit or eradicate harm reduction services in this province.
“This panel was only tasked with looking at one side of the story, the socioeconomic impact, and not on the human benefit of having this health care service available to the individuals who need it,” said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.
Shockingly, members of this committee chose to undermine the life-saving measures taken at these sites to revive individuals suffering what was referred to as “adverse effects.” To downplay the precautionary interventions of the qualified health care providers on staff at SCS facilities demonstrates ignorance when it comes to responding to an overdose, and calls into question the very basis of this panel.
As a wealth of rigorous evidence from both Canada and around the world has unequivocally demonstrated, SCS don’t cause addiction and they don’t enable drug use. Instead, these sites allow people to reduce infection risk and death risk until they are ready to seek treatment. People who utilize these sites are provided access and referrals to health care and other social services that would otherwise not be available to them. Despite all the anecdotes presented by the review committee today, the evidence is clear: harm reduction keeps individuals and communities safer and healthier.
“This government has been provoking fear in Albertans about crime and addiction for months. And now, their appointment of a biased and uninformed panel has culminated in a report that is equally biased, and extremely dangerous,” says Azocar. “All the socioeconomic anecdotes collected by this committee should not undermine any Albertan’s ability to access the health care they need, least of all the most vulnerable among us.”
Reductions to funding or closures of SCS facilities would leave Albertans vulnerable to overdose, HIV and Hepatitis C -- at great cost to individuals, their families and the health system. We know that treatments are not effective for everyone, and that people are at greater risk of overdose after they come out of detox and treatment. Additionally, not everyone using substances, including alcohol, is ready or in need of treatment. That is why it is absolutely critical for harm reduction initiatives like SCS to be in place and accessible to individuals who need them, even in the case of expanded availability of treatment and recovery services.
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan has not yet conclusively committed to stopping funding to Alberta’s SCS. However, if he is to act on the conclusions of the review committee, and omit harm reduction from the government’s plan for mental health and addiction, he will be sending the message to Albertans that lives of thousands of friends, family, and community members at risk of overdose are expendable. If Associate Minister Luan is serious about the recovery of Albertans suffering from addictions, he must act on the best evidence available and commit ongoing funding to SCS in this province.
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