The update below reflects the most recent information available from local government, healthcare, and police resources. We have also included relevant healthcare research findings and updates.
Government Of Alberta SCS Review
In March 2020, the Government of Alberta released an assessment on Supervised Consumption Services. A group of over 40 Canadian scientists with diverse health-care and research expertise have called on the province to retract the report. The scientists raised “grave” concern with the “poor methodological quality, lack of transparency and biased presentation of the results”.
The BNA also called on the Government to revise the report after it was found that it had incorrectly implied a decline in the Beltline’s neighbourhood ranking in Avenue Magazine’s 2019 survey was due to the SCS.
On July 15, 2020, the Alberta Government announced funding for five new mental health and addiction recovery communities. However, most details around these facilities will operate have yet to be made public.
On August 31, 2020, it was reported by the Calgary Herald that the SCS review committee made “excessive” expense claims; “double-dipping” on personal travel and wining and dining on public dollars (including prime rib dinners, avocado toast, and alcoholic beverages.)
Alberta Government Abruptly Cancels Funding to Lethbridge SCS
The mobile SCS for East Calgary that was shelved by the current Alberta Government has now been relocated to replace the Lethbridge SCS, despite the ongoing need for mobile SCS in Calgary and its significantly lower capacity than the Lethbridge SCS being closed.
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Calls has Called on Federal Government to Decriminalize Simple Drug Possession
Canada’s police chiefs are calling on Ottawa to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs, which they argue is urgently needed to slow opioid deaths and help people addicted to illicit substances.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police released a report in early July 2020 underscoring how the criminal-justice system has been ineffective in dealing with people who are battling substance use and addiction issues.
The group, which includes the chiefs of most police forces in the country, said a shift in federal drug laws is urgently needed to divert these users away from the courts and into the hands of health care and social-service providers. This is a long-standing demand of activists, scientists and public-health officials from across the country.
Canada takes step to decriminalize drug possession amid opioid crisis
In August 2020, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) effectively took a step toward decriminalizing the possession of illegal drugs, with the federal prosecution service issuing a new directive permitting prosecution only in the most serious cases – those that put public safety, and especially children, at risk. Police will still lay or recommend charges under the new directive, Mr. Spratt said. The prosecutors will then have discretion to divert most cases from the criminal-justice system.
Deaths Due to Opioid Overdoses Have Steadily Declined in Alberta Since the Introduction of SCS
According to the Q1 2020 Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report, the number of carfentanil cases peaked in the last quarter of 2017 (70 deaths). Since then, the numbers of carfentanil cases have decreased, with just one occurring in the first quarter of 2020.
Non-fentanyl opioid related deaths are also on the decline.
Number of apparent accidental drug poisoning deaths related to an opiod other than fentanyl by place of death - Q1 2020 Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report.
The Opioid Epidemic is Citywide Problem in Calgary
The two maps below demonstrate that the addictions crisis is a city-wide problem. Both maps plot the apparent accidental opioid poisoning deaths in Calgary based on place of overdose and EMS responses related to opioid related events from January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020.
Apparent accidental opioid poisoning deaths in Calgary (based on place of overdose). January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020 from the Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report - Q1 2020.
Count of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responses to opioid related events from January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020 from the Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report - Q1 2020.
Edmonton has seen less local impact on crime around SCS sites
Edmonton has four distributed supervised consumption sites for a city of 972,223 residents compared to Calgary, which has just one supervised consumption site for a city of 1.2 million residents.
According to the Edmonton Police Service, their data has shown a decrease in crime around the four distributed supervised consumption sites in Edmonton.
Plans for Distributed SCS in Calgary Effectively Cancelled by Government of Alberta
A mobile SCS that was planned to serve East Calgary in the Forest Lawn area that was put on hold by the Alberta Government last year is now unlikely to open after the Alberta Government’s Report on SCS did not consider establishing new sites in its scope. On May 2, 2019 the mobile site was ready to launch and had opened its doors to the public for a tour.
The mobile SCS for East Calgary that was shelved by the current Alberta Government has now been relocated to replace the Lethbridge SCS, despite the ongoing need for a mobile SCS in Calgary and its significantly lower capacity than the Lethbridge SCS being closed.
Government Of Alberta Cancels Phone-based Supervised Consumption Project
The Government of Alberta cancelled a phone-based SCS pilot that Alberta Health Services was set to open just hours before its launch in June 2020. The virtual overdose response pilot project would have been the first of its kind in the province. It would have allowed clients to speak with a peer operator, tasked with monitoring them after substance use and dispatching emergency medical services if they become unresponsive.
A staggering 80% of overdose fatalities occur within the home, according to a government report on opioid-related deaths in 2017. The new service could have reduced demand on the sole supervised consumption site at the Sheldon Chumir in the Beltline.
Study Finds Supervised Consumption Services Save Money and Reduce Strain on Ambulances and Emergency Rooms
A University of Calgary study released June 2020 has found the sole supervised drug consumption site in Calgary has saved the province $2.3 million since its inception and will likely save millions more in the future.
The study also found that the site also decreases strain on ambulances and emergency rooms, specifically translating into 700 fewer people needing an ambulance or emergency room per year.
Trend In Public Generated Calls For Service Over 3-year Average: Q3 2019
The Calgary Police Service has not released an updated statistics report for the area around the SCS since Q3 2019.
According to the most recent CPS report from Q3 2019, calls related to Disorder, Violence, Break & Enters, and Vehicle Crime in the 250m area around the SCS are trending at or below the percentage change over the 3-year average for the City Centre, which includes the rest of the Beltline, Downtown, Chinatown, East Village, Downtown West and Eau Claire. However, calls related to drug related activity were up over the three 3-year average.
|250m Around Sheldon Chumir Health Centre||City Centre||All of Calgary|
|Break & Enters||
Current trends in publicly generated calls for services over 3-year average as reported in Calgary Police Service's Crime & Disorder near the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre’s Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) Facility 2019 Statistical Overview: Third Quarter Report.
Calgary City Centre's Overall Crime Trend
The most recent (Q3 2019) CPS report marked the third consecutive quarter that calls for service related to Break & Enters and Vehicle Crime in the City Centre showed a significant increasing trend over the three year average at or in most cases, above the trend for the 250m area around the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre.
The trend for publicly generated calls for service related to Break and Enters in the Centre City continues to exceed the trend in the 250m area around the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre according to the Calgary Police Service Crime & Disorder near the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre’s Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) Facility 2019 Statistical Overview: Third Quarter Report.
The trend for publicly generated calls for service related to Vehicle Crime in the Centre City continues to exceed the trend in the 250m area around the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre according to the Calgary Police Service Crime & Disorder near the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre’s Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) Facility 2019 Statistical Overview: Third Quarter Report.
Lack of Permanent Centre City Police Presence in Calgary
The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association and several other community partners in the City Centre continue to advocate for Calgary Police Service to re-establish a City Centre Police station since the Victoria Park CPS Station was closed in 2017. Calgary is now the only major city in Canada without a permanent downtown police presence to the detriment of residents and businesses as the city grapples with the economic downturn and drug addictions crisis.
Calgary's Overall Increasing Methamphetamine Problem
According to the Q3 2019 CPS Report, the number of seizures of methamphetamine across Calgary has increased dramatically since 2013 and now far exceeds that of fentanyl, heroin and crack/cocaine.
Drug seizure occurrences as reported in CPS's Crime & Disorder near the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre’s Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) Facility 2019 Statistical Overview: Third Quarter.
Supervised Consumption Services in Calgary: Safeworks
Alberta Health Services provides supervised consumption services at Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre 24 hours per day, seven days a week. While Edmonton distributes their services across four different sites in town, Calgary has only one site. Since operations began on October 30 2017 to May 31 2020, Safeworks staff have responded to a total of 1821 overdoses.
Summary Of Visits And Overdoses By Month at Safeworks in Calgary: May 2020
In May 2020, Safeworks staff responded to 52 overdoses. Of these, 46 required supplemental oxygen, 23 required naloxone and eight also required an EMS response. To date, no deaths have occurred on site.
Summary Of Referrals By Month at Safeworks in Calgary: May 2020
Safeworks SCS in Calgary has partnerships with both AHS programs and external community partners. In May 2020, Safeworks made 145 referrals.
How We've Been Supporting The Beltline
SCS Community Liaison Committee
A solution-focused SCS Community Liaison Committee run by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the BNA continues to meet approximately once per month to monitor the operations of the SCS, table community issues in the area and work towards solutions. The committee has been meeting since December 2018 but has paused since the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to rebooting this committee soon.
If you are interested in participating on this committee please contact us at [email protected]
Events Programming in Central Memorial Park
The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association continues to work with the City of Calgary Parks Department and community partners to find ways to activate Central Memorial Park. Activities and programming this summer were in line with the new Alberta Health Services and City of Calgary restrictions on events as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the month of August, we programmed weekly DJ in the Park events as part of the 2020 BUMP Festival.
Stay tuned for future events programming.
Other Service Updates
Beltline DOAP Team Operating
The Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) is often the first point of contact with vulnerable individuals in the community, and this is a critical first step in connecting these people with the support that they need. A Beltline-dedicated DOAP team continues to operate specifically in the Beltline area in addition to the Downtown Core team and city-wide team.
24-hour SCS Outreach Team: Safeworks Connect
The SCS Outreach team Safeworks Connect has started working around the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre. The team made up of pairs of health care and social workers will be in the community 7-days a week most times of day to support people sleeping rough, suffering with addiction, and engage with residents and businesses to improve integration of the SCS with the community.
Needle Drop Box Relocations
The Calgary Fire Department (CFD) manages the City's needle dropbox program. These are the yellow drop boxes you see around town that have been in operation for years. The City has begun consolidating needle pickup data across multiple departments internally (Parks, CFD, CPS, etc.) as well as externally (DOAP Team) to reassess needle dropbox locations. The CFD has advised they will be working to redistribute some of the drop boxes this fall to address gaps in their placements.
Based on newly analyzed data, two new drop boxes have been added: one near the Uptown Bottle Depot at 631 10 Ave SW and another outside the Palliser Parkade at 120 10 Ave SE.
Links To Latest Reports
- AHS Safeworks - July 2020 Report
- AHS Opioid Surveillance Report - Q1 2020
- Calgary Police Service - Q3 2019 Statistical Report
- AHS Supervised Consumption Services in Calgary
- AHS Supervised Consumption Services FAQ
- AHS Fentanyl Information and Resources
- AHS Opioid Surveillance Reports
Send us your comments or feedback at [email protected].