McCauley residents seem to recognize the need for medically-supervised injection services, but balk at locating two services in McCauley and two others just outside our borders.
This appeared to be the consensus among about 60 residents who attended a meeting on March 6, sponsored by the McCauley Community League to talk about the proposed four sites in the inner city.
Other concerns expressed included the sites reinforcing a negative view of McCauley, increasing drug activity around the sites, and heightening concerns about safety.
Dr. Elaine Hyshka, from the group Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton, gave a short presentation on why the four sites were selected. She noted the proposed model integrates the new service into three existing organizations that already serve vulnerable community members with substance abuse problems.
These sites are the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, George Spady Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, and the fourth site, the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Jane Molstad, from the City of Edmonton, who leads the McCauley Revitalization, talked about efforts to reduce the number of discarded needles. Last year 2,304 discarded syringes were found in McCauley, an increase of about 400 over previous years.
Support for the services was based on a genuine compassion for addicted drug users and an expectation it would decrease the number of discarded needles and lead to less street drug use. However, others felt the services would attract drug users from outside McCauley and make the problem worse.
Several people noted the lack of consultation with the community about the proposal. The League organized the meeting when it found out the proponents weren’t planning a community meeting.
Comments by some residents reflected the ongoing tensions in the neighbourhood about the impact of services provided by the many agencies in McCauley. One resident noted: “Why are all the services in our community? We get more and more support services for an already over-burdened neighbourhood.”
Similar to the publicly stated position of the Edmonton Police Service, several residents noted the key to getting people off drugs was to provide adequate support services – intox beds, counsellors, etc.
“We need to provide for more than just this one piece”, said a resident. “This is an important tool, but if we are not doing more to provide for the other tools, and further treatment, then doing just this is unacceptable.”
Several residents called for the community to a participant in a fully funded evaluation of the sites. The League will be sharing the notes from the meeting and following up with federal and provincial health officials about the support and concerns expressed by residents.
Phil is President of the McCauley Community League.