Since opening in Amsterdam in the 1970s, supervised injection sites have been saving lives. In Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, B.C. there has never been a death from overdose. Both sites compile academically reliable statistics.
Once the HIV epidemic was finally recognized, more sites opened in North America. The history of the spread of HIV, and the horrible number of deaths associated with it, should be lesson enough for this generation of people who now hear about the epidemic of deaths from Fentanyl and Carfentanil. We have a frightening number of deaths happening in Canada and around the world.
In McCauley, we see a disproportionate number of ambulance calls related to overdose. We must admit that we are a distressed neighbourhood still when it comes to homelessness, addictions, mental illness, and poverty. When a health emergency becomes noticeable, it will normally become known here first. We will then need to be at the leading edge of attacking the issue.
The City of Edmonton and Alberta Health Services have devised a treatment plan that is marvelous in that it addresses most of the issues many people see. The plan to have one 24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year supervised injection “site” in McCauley was a stroke of brilliance. To use existing facilities that are already accessed by the vulnerable population most in need of the service to cut costs and provide what will, hopefully, be a successful way to address the crisis with the least amount of disruption to the community at large, is genius.
It is true that there are other places in Edmonton that need supervised injection sites, and that is something being planned and worked out at this time. But we are “patient zero” in this battle. McCauley has had the most ambulance calls for overdoses in the entire city. People who suggest Glenora as a good place do not get it. People in Glenora who overdose frequently have the antidote in the house administered by friends or family. We have a disproportionate number of homeless people who are more vulnerable than those living in Glenora.
It is true that there are other places in Edmonton that need supervised injection sites, and that is something being planned and worked out at this time. But we are “patient zero” in this battle.
An example of something a portion of this community fought some years back that is now an international standard of care for Indigenous populations, is Ambrose Place. Since its opening two years ago the population there, for which there are records from AHS and other agencies, has seen a significant – nay, a phenomenal – decrease in ambulance calls (56%), hospital stays (81% decrease at Alberta Hospital), and emergency room visits. Millions of dollars have been saved while the people living in Ambrose Place have been able to live in dignity and safety, while able to reconnect with their culture.
We all live with certain challenges in our community. Most of us do not live near the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, but we witness the effects of others’ drug addictions and other social ills. I challenge each of you to see the improvements being made in our community. I began driving through the back alleys of McCauley several years ago before Ambrose Place opened. I still do. The difference in our alleys is incredible. The alleys behind the Mustard Seed Church, Lucky 97, and to the Hull Block, have cleared out. No more people congregated around trash cans burning to keep warm; no more sleeping “bags” (cardboard with blankets) left. Granted, sometimes we can see them, but it used to be a constant, and slightly frightening, visual.
If you can see the improvements, if you have noted positive things happening here, please let your councillor know! Write to the mayor and let him know. The City only hears from the people who have problems. We never write to them telling them how well (or better) things are.
Colleen lives in McCauley.