Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy demand end to Alberta’s war on harm reduction
June 26, 2021
CALGARY - June 26 is the Global Day of Action Against Oppressive Drug Policy, Support, Don’t Punish. Today, Albertans are coming together at for the YYC Day of Action, to commemorate and remember the lives that have been lost as a result of this ongoing opioid pandemic, and to call on this government to stop the unjust assault on harm reduction services.
Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy, business owners and community members are marking this occasion with the release of a joint statement, to renew our calls to stop the unjust assault on harm reduction services. Harm reduction, including supervised consumption services (SCS) not only save lives, but they also help to keep people healthy, connect them with services, and ultimately saves money for the health system.
While the overdose crisis in Canada has worsened during the COVID 19 pandemic. 2020 was the worst year on record for substance-related harms, including opioid related deaths. Canada saw 6,214 deaths, over 5,215 hospitalizations and over 28,812 Emergency Medical Services responses. In Alberta alone, in 2020, the increasingly volatile and deadly drug supply claimed the lives of 1,328 Albertans – a 155% increase from 521 in 2019, yet worldwide, there has never been an overdose fatality at an SCS.
Despite the vital importance that SCS play in the lives of the individuals who rely on them, their families and communities, the UCP remains focused on pushing their 'Alberta Model,' and have subsequently closed SCS facilities in Lethbridge and Edmonton, and with another closure impending in Calgary. This government’s actions clearly reveal their indifference to the staggering death toll and toward people who use drugs—our neighbours, friends, family members, employees, colleagues and community members. The deaths will continue to rise as a result.
Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy and the statement’s signatories are demanding the following actions from the provincial government:
- Remove Jason Luan from his cabinet role as Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and find a replacement with the compassion and competence that the role calls for in our current crisis.
- Retract the SCS Review Report, issue a public statement on the harms of misinformation, and launch an inquiry into the indisputable disregard of scientific rigor in its execution.
- Cancel the closure of the Calgary SCS located in the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre.
- Reverse the closure of the BSCS SCS in downtown Edmonton.
- Reopen and fund ARCHES SCS in Lethbridge.
- Unfreeze funding for the mobile SCS in Calgary and the fixed SCS in Medicine Hat.
Albertans are dying from overdose at unprecedented rates, and we will not stand by while our communities are decimated by toxic drug policy.
“The loss of supervised consumption services at this time, when deaths continue to mount, will directly translate to increased drug poisoning morbidity and mortality in Alberta. Excellent scientific evidence supports the efficacy, safety, and cost effectiveness of supervised consumption. Closing these services represents a violation of my patients' rights to essential, life-saving care.“ – Dr. Bonnie Larson, Clinical assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Calgary.
“MSTH supports the spectrum of harm reduction in its purest form, from saving lives within an SCS to helping a person live a life that is meaningful for them. Removing any support within that spectrum equals death.” – Kym Porter, advocacy leader, Moms Stop the Harm.
“When it comes to supervised consumption services, Associate Minister Luan has a nodding acquaintance with the truth, and has become a master and spinning a narrative that does not reflect the true impact of this government’s actions. The bottom line is that lives are at stake, but this province is ignoring evidence in the name of ideology.” – Sandra Azocar, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare.
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