Today, the Lethbridge Police Department reported that they had concluded their investigation about the alleged ‘misappropriation’ of funds by ARCHES. Through it, the Special Prosecution Unit determined that all the money had been accounted for and it was deemed that there is no 'criminal wrongdoing'. LPS indicated that they had shared their findings with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister Luan.
Back in March of 2020, on the same day the Alberta government released the findings of its review of supervised consumption sites in the province, Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, announced an audit of Lethbridge's site alleging financial irregularities. This government-appointed review committee the ideological justification that this government needed to move forward on their dangerous plan to limit or eradicate harm reduction services in this province in favor of the government’s “abstinence and treatment ” only-approach.
In July 2020, Jason Luan used the findings of this audit as a justification to defund and closed down supervised consumption services (SCS) in Lethbridge, a deliberate and ideological approach that led to individual and community harms at an alarming rate.
Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy, a collaborative group comprised of advocates, service providers, and people with lived/living experience (PWLLE), were disheartened and appalled by the government’s announcement that they would defund the supervised consumption service (SCS) in Lethbridge. We warned that defunding the busiest SCS in Canada will undoubtedly lead to significant harm and a sharp increase in deaths. The existing services must remain in-tact to ensure continuity of care for the average 800 visits/day at the Lethbridge SCS.
Instead of allowing these services to remain in-tact and ensuring continuity of care for the then average 800 visits/day, the government opted to respond by cutting funding and shutting down the site. Alberta's overdose crisis has continued to be a raging fire in this province, and it has not slowed down during this pandemic. The approach that was taken by this government was deliberate.
As we saw from an analysis of the latest overdose surveillance data released by the province of Alberta on December 18, 2020, Lethbridge has the highest death rate (per 100,000 person years) of all the communities that are included in the report.
The dual crisis of a global pandemic and a drug poisoning epidemic continue to put people at compounded risk for overdose death. We know that COVID-19 has pushed many at-risk of overdose into isolation and has made the current drug supply more volatile than ever before. Any disruption in existing services across this province is a death sentence to our most vulnerable Albertans.
Albertans for Ethical Drug Policy are demanding that the government immediately reinstate funding for Lethbridge SCS operations. Lethbridge ARCHES clients have done nothing to deserve being cast out into the street during a dual health crisis
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