Boyle Street supervised consumption site closing permanently

·2 min read
Boyle Street Community Services houses one of Edmonton's three supervised consumption sites. The site was closed in fall but will be permanently shut at the end of April.  (Josee St-Onge/CBC - image credit)
Boyle Street Community Services houses one of Edmonton's three supervised consumption sites. The site was closed in fall but will be permanently shut at the end of April. (Josee St-Onge/CBC - image credit)

The supervised consumption site at Boyle Street Community Services in downtown Edmonton will close permanently at the end of April.

The site closed in the fall of 2020 when service was redirected to the Tipinawâw shelter at the Edmonton Convention Centre. Jordan Reiniger, executive director of Boyle Street, said the decision to close the site permanently came after talks with the government.

"There was a desire, I think, from the government to reduce the total footprint, to go from, instead of three sites, to two," he told CBC's Edmonton AM on Tuesday. "This was sort of a way that we could work together to make that happen, but also try and really mitigate any sort of impact that would have on the community in the area."

He said the province wanted a reduced footprint following recommendations from the government-appointed Supervised Consumption Services Review Committee in 2020.

Before the fall of 2020, three supervised consumption sites operated in central Edmonton.

Boyle Street operated its site from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. The George Spady Centre, a block away, operated from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., then Boyle McCauley Health Centre operated during the day.

Once the Tipinawâw shelter closes, George Spady will become a 24-hour supervised consumption site taking on clients from Boyle Street.

In a statement to CBC on Monday, the province said the three supervised consumption sites were too close to each other.

"The government is engaged with the Boyle Street society about potentially operating overdose prevention services in an under-serviced area of Edmonton," the statement read. "There has been no reduction in funding for SCS in the Edmonton Zone."

Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at the University of Alberta's school of public health, said the closure will be devastating for the clients who access these services, as it had taken time to establish trust.

"I just feel really sad for the clients of the service that have built relationships with the staff that was there," she said.

Hyshka was part of the community coalition that recommended opening the supervised consumption sites in 2018. She said the province needs to increase supports for the community, not reduce them.

A record 1,128 Albertans died from opioid overdoses in 2020.

According to the province's health analytics, 43 people died of overdoses in January 2021, compared to 23 in January 2020 and 16 in January 2019.