'Our goal is to keep people safe': Saskatoon safe consumption site opens Thursday
SASKATOON -- The province’s first safe consumption site is ready to open Thursday.
The executive director of Prairie Harm Reduction, Jason Mercredi, has been preparing for this day for months.
“Our goal is to keep people safe, keep the community safe and to start getting people connected with services,” said Mercredi.
The safe consumption site is located on 20th Street West. The facility will provide a safe and sterile space for drug users to consume their drugs.
The facility will have seven booths and a safe smoking space, something the surrounding drug users seem interested in using.
“We have a lot of people who use drugs behind our building,” said Mercredi.
“People are asking us every day when they can start using the inside of the building with our medical professional,” he said.
A paramedic will be available in the facility and will supervise and be able to respond to an overdose when the facility is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mercredi said the facility wanted to be open 24/7 but was unable to do so because of a lack of funding.
When the safe consumption site was announced last year, there were concerns raised about safety and since then, more police resources have been dedicated to the area.
Mercredi said that one of the most common misconceptions of the facility is that they enable drug use.
“The reality is we already have a lot of people using drugs in this community, we're just trying to make sure it’s done in a safe way, that we can stop people from dying,” he said.
Mercredi mentioned how the facility would also save the province more money by avoiding costly emergency care and hospital stays. This was echoed by Marie Agioritis, a mother who lost one of her sons to a drug overdose and has another who also struggled with addiction.
“Well number one (the safe consumption site) saves lives and dead people don’t recover,” said Agioritis.
“We also need (safe consumption sites) across the province because they are, in the long run, more cost effective than the way we are handling it right now,” she said.
Prairie Harm Reduction says the goal of the safe consumption site is to prevent overdoses and other medical effects due to drug use.
It hopes that through this facility they will be able to collect statistics to educate the public about how its services help the community.