Each month, we are asking Langley’s elected officials to weigh in on an issue of concern to local residents. They are given a deadline and invited to respond with a maximum 250 words on the matter. This time, each member of Langley City council was invited to respond to this question.

ADVANCE TIMES EXCLUSIVE

AT YOUR SERVICE: City council weighs in on supervised consumption sites

Q&A: Langley City council members given first chance to address the community on a key local issue

The Langley Advance Times is pleased to introduce a new weekly feature, called “At Your Service.”

It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.

Instead of waiting for an election to arrive, we’re introducing this new weekly feature that will run ongoing, explained editor Roxanne Hooper.

Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.

Alternating between elected groups each week, we will begin with the Langley City council this week and rotate through Langley Township council, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs – before starting at the top of the list again.

The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.

In addition to questions presented by Advance Times staff, we are also open to suggested questions from the public on topics that are of concern to them.

Elected officials have been advised that we reserve the right to edit their submissions for brevity, legality, and clarity. If a politician’s answer is not included, it could be by error, but is more likely a failure on their part to meet the deadline.

QUESTION

Each member of council was asked the same question: Would a supervised consumption site in Langley City get drug use off the streets, or make the situation worse?

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ANSWERS

Mayor Val van den Broek

A. Social issues are here, and have been for a long time. This is not JUST a safe consumption site. It is a health contact centre provided by Fraser Health, operated by Lookout (who know our community very well).

A resource hub to provide services such as safe consumption, safe supply, recovery, and wellness options. The objective of a centre like this is not to get drug use off the streets, it is to save lives.

To give people (who will use drugs anyway!) an opportunity to use indoors and off city sidewalks and parks.

The context of the ongoing overdose crisis cannot be ignored here. Most certainly a centre like this will not make the situation worse. In fact it will make the lives of many better, ensuring those who utilize the service for drug consumption purposes do not die.

A place where isolated individuals can connect with someone who will not judge them.

Any belief that a health contact centre would be negative for our community is based on nimbyism or old-fashioned moralizing of substance use, and ignores countless studies that reveal safe consumption sites are evidence based and a net positive for their communities.

This does not mean everything will be perfect or dramatically improve overnight, it will take some time for the service to integrate into the community and understand the needs of those who access it.

Langley City will continue to communicate with all involved to ensure that the good neighbourhood clause is being honoured.

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Councillor Paul Albrecht

A. This is a complex issue that is challenging to provide a simple answer to.

To be clear this health emergency requires the cooperation and alignment of all orders of government to provide the kind of model and services to make a significant impact for our country.

Multiple studies and research all over the world confirm that a supervised consumption site is part of a harm-reduction approach towards drug problems.

The facilities provide sterile injection equipment, information about drugs, and basic health care, treatment referrals, and at some facilities – counselling.

These types of programs provide a safe, respectful, and non-judgemental approach towards helping those at risk with support and assistance.

From a local government perspective, we are left with ensuring that we effectively collaborate with our provincial health authority to address the concerns of our residents, businesses, and those folks at risk. This collaboration is critical in finding the right fit for our community and the manner in which it will operate to provide the help our residents require.

At the end of the day, studies show these sites save lives – that life could be a friend or family member.

Saving life to me is a good thing, the right thing to do!

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Councillor Teri James

A. This is not a one size fits all problem, and although I believe a supervised consumption site would help, there are still those people who will be too private to use a facility of this type, and those who will not use this site at all for a variety of other reasons.

I believe location is important.

If the site is too public, I feel it will deter some people from using it.

Alternatively, if it is too inaccessible, I also believe this would restrict use as well.

I believe the best locations for supervised consumption sites would be existing full-service sites in appropriate locations that anyone requiring this service can attend freely and without stigma.

So, my honest response is that – although I do not feel a supervised consumption site will get drug use off the streets in its entirety – I do believe it will help.

The next step in helping people who will benefit from this assistance is that they are truly needed in locations that can be accessed, where they can feel secure, are provided the assurance that they will get home safely, and most importantly, know that they are supported within their community.

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Councillor Gayle Martin

A. To date in 2021 86% of illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred inside (56% in private residences and 30% in other residences including social and supportive housing, SRO’s, shelters, hotels, and other indoor locations) and 13% occurred outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, parks, etc.

As a great majority of deaths occur in residences, I question if those who died due to overdoses would get in their vehicle and drive to an overdose prevention site.

There have been no deaths reported at supervised prevention sites, so they obviously help. But it has to be in a location that is accessible and where people can attend in a relatively private location.

I’m not convinced a supervised prevention site would eradicate drug use on the streets, however for those who choose to use the service, they are far better off than those who don’t.

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Councillor Nathan Pachal

A. Around 1,700 people in B.C. died due to toxic drug overdoses in 2020.

In Langley, 77 people died.

The majority of people who died are employed, have a place to live, and are young men.

As a result, Fraser Health and its service provider are planning to open an overdose prevention site in Langley.

Overdose prevention site services include supplies, prevention, and intervention services such as counselling and substance-use treatment.

My father used illicit drugs and later abused prescription medication. He got help at a methadone clinic, which helped save him and our family.

Working at a TV station and now a software company located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impacts that an overdose prevention site can have in a neighbourhood, such as reducing people using in and around businesses.

If Fraser Health and its partner place an overdose prevention site in Langley City, they should do so in a way that uplifts their clients and surrounding neighbourhoods. The site must be designed so that someone like my dad would feel comfortable accessing it.

The right design and location will help reduce the fear of access and provide a dignified experience for clients. It can uplift surrounding neighbourhoods and support the City’s goal of creating an active and safe downtown core.

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Councillor Rudy Storteboom

A. First, because your question is about health care, I want to offer my gratitude to frontline health-care and emergency response personnel. All frontline service workers deserve our sincere respect and appreciation.

As you know, Langley City and Township councils received notice from Fraser Health Authority (FHA) of their intention to establish an overdose prevention site (OPS) somewhere in the Langleys, whenever and wherever they prefer.

This is FHA’s unilateral response to a significant increase in overdoses in residential homes that have occurred during the pandemic.

I don’t think a destination OPS is going to stop people from using at home. However, if clients prefer to drive to an OPS, we know they shouldn’t be allowed to drive back home while “under the influence.”

I think it would be better to expand the existing home health-care service for people who prefer to use where they live. If FHA policy makers insist on contracting for an expensive OPS destination location, I think it should be in a medical setting, like a hospital, where “wrap around” services are readily available; including counselling.

The relationship local government has with Fraser Health Authority policy makers is not an equal partnership. I would prefer a more collaborative decision-making process when making policy for my community.

All things considered, I expect evidence of drug use to continue at the street level.

Also, I have concerns about the possibility of an increase in trafficking illegal drugs around an OPS, that’s why the site location is especially important.

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Councillor Rosemary Wallace

A. I believe that a supervised consumption site in the right place in Langley City would help individuals dependent on drugs feel safe and taken care of by qualified staff.

For far too long the stigma around addiction has left individuals struggling to find the help they need!

Supervised consumption sites offer a range of evidence-based harm reduction services, such as drug checking.

The site would provide access to important health and social services, including substance use treatment for those who are ready.

I believe that a supervised consumption would not add to the drugs on the street, but support in the healing process and educate those being preyed on by drug dealers.

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UP NEXT

Next week’s question has been sent out to Langley Township council members. Their question is: Should the Township increase its industrial land base, even if that means less land for commercial, residential, or agricultural use?

Stay tuned for their answers.

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If you have a suggested question you’d like to see put to your local council, school board, MLAs, or MPs, please email it to editor@langleyadvancetimes.com. Please include “At Your Service” in the subject line, and make sure to include which political body you wish to see the question addressed to and. It is also necessary to include your name and phone number – in case we need to connect you for any reason.

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