If approved this would be the second safe consumption site opened in Saskatchewan, the first having opened in Saskatoon this October.
Michael Parker, executive director of the Newo Yotina Friendship Centre, says the city needs to do more with regards to harm reduction, and that starts with opening a safe consumption site for drug users. An application to create the safe consumption site was filed on Friday by Parker with the support of Police Chief Evan Bray, Mayor Sandra Masters and the Heritage Community Association.
“This is about being practical and trying to save lives. You can’t go to treatment if you overdose and die” said Parker. The fact that the mayor and police chief are in favour of the site speaks volumes to how attitudes have changed on harm reduction says Parker.
“It’s a move away from a misinformed ideological approach to what harm reduction is,” he said. In his time at the Friendship Centre, Parker said staff has dealt with fatal overdoses on site. Earlier this month, Parker said the centre lost one of its regular clients to a fentanyl overdose.
The Newo Yotina Friendship Centre, located on the corner of 11th Avenue and Osler Street, would be the location of the site. Parker said the plan is for the site to be temporary, running from Jan. 11, 2021 to Sept. 31, 2021. A letter sent to Minister of Health Paul Merriman says “a small scale pilot Overdose Prevention Site was determined to be the most appropriate and feasible immediate response,” given the rash of overdoses in the city.
According to the Regina Police Service (RPS) there have been 106 suspected fatal overdoses this year as of Dec. 16. All told officers have attended 391 overdoses this year, administrating NARCAN 61 times.
The application is, in part, an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, meaning people could not be charged for possession at the site. Parker said the urgent public health needs site (UPHNS) would be typical of other safe consumption sites. There will be no coaching on how to use drugs, no minors will be allowed, drugs can be tested and, most importantly, staff will be on hand in the case of an overdose.
The site itself would be separate from the main area of the centre. Parker said this is not a definitive solution to the addictions problem in the city and province, instead it’s a way to mitigate the unprecedented number of deaths in the city.
If approved this would be the second safe consumption site in Saskatchewan, the first being in Saskatoon. In an emailed statement a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said it was aware of the application.
Parker said he is hoping for a response next week. “It would be a great Christmas present.”
Published on: December 18, 2020