A report out by the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Alberta highlighted a number of areas related to preventing and intervening in opioid abuse in young people.
“Into Focus: Calling Attention to Youth Opioid Use in Alberta” looked at 12 young people who died of opioid poisoning between October 2015 and September 2017. The children had all been involved with Child Intervention Services within two years of their deaths.
“These 12 young people represent just a small number of people in Alberta who have died from opioid poisoning,” said Del Graff, Provincial Child and Youth Advocate. “Their experiences highlight a need for targeted strategies that address youth opioid use.”
The young people in the review were not identified, but general demographics were supplied.
Five were female, seven were male. Eight were Caucasian, one was First Nations, two were Métis and one of mixed heritage.
Ten were hospitalized for drug-related overdose or psychosis. Nine had co-occurring mental health and/or cognitive disabilities.
Six were confined in a protective safe house. Residential treatment was not significantly used. Three of them accessed residential treatment services (one young person did not complete the program).
Eleven young people had involvement under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Six spent time in jail.
Erratic behaviour a concern
“Erratic” behaviour stemming from drug use is a primary concern of businesses in the downtown core and area surrounding the supervised consumption site, according to the results from discussions held by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.
Last week, the chamber held discussions in the Theatre Gallery of the Lethbridge Public Library downtown branch for businesses to convey their concerns.
Karla Pyrch, executive director for the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, said this is the latest in a number of ways the chamber has been involved in the opioid crisis.
“The chamber engaged with the City and ARCHES earlier in the year about programs being provided and what they have been doing to provide safety in our city,” she said. “We’ve had a response back from businesses saying, ‘We want the opportunity to speak about our experience.’”
She said the chamber has been trying to identify core issues and ways to help businesses adapt.
Pyrch noted information collected seemed to be less about violent behaviour and more toward debris and erratic behaviour.
“That causes some intimidation,” Pyrch said. “(We are) looking at how they can build that and still build their business and attract people into their businesses.”
So close to 100,000
The City released its 2018 census showing the population is inching — literally, it seems — toward that vaunted 100,000 mark. The numbers were provided to council during its regular meeting.
Officially, Lethbridge now stands at 99,769 citizens — a mere 231 away from 100,000. This year’s numbers are 1.6 per cent, or 1,571, above the 2017 municipal census number.
“The numbers were checked and rechecked,” said Mayor Chris Spearman. “We would have liked to be over 100,000, but it wasn’t to be.”
Lethbridge traditionally sees a sustainable rate of growth hovering around the 1.5 to two per cent mark. This means the 100,000 could be waiting just down the road on next year’s census.
Rules in place for pot stores
Retail development rules for recreational cannabis stores have now been set in the City of Lethbridge.
City council has approved a Land Use Bylaw amendment that regulates where retail cannabis stores will be allowed to locate when recreational cannabis becomes legal in October.
The changes make retail cannabis stores a “Permitted Use” within five types of commercial districts in the city, provided they are located at least 100 metres from the property lines of any schools, future school sites, or provincial health-care facilities.
Cannabis retailers will have to meet all provincial licensing requirements by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission in order to receive municipal development approval to operate.
Park Meadows Elementary School held a special “ribbon ripping” ceremony last week to formally open its new, accessible playground.
The new playground, dubbed “The Playground of Caring,” took two and a half years to come together and cost $400,000 to build. Money for the project came from grants funded through the City’s Community Facility Enhancement Program and Community Capital Project Grant.
Students, parents and local businesses also chipped in for a portion of the project’s funding. Designed and constructed by Blue Imp, the playground uses 3,000 recycled tires to create a safe and accessible play area for children of any need and has wheelchair-accessible ramps off most of the apparatuses.
Students waited patiently for the VIP speeches to conclude before eagerly jumping in to grab a section of the ribbons strewn around the edges of the playground. They proceeded to tear the ribbons into sections when instructed to do so by the teachers to open the park for general use before jumping on the apparatuses to break them in.
Park Meadows principal Mark Blankenstyn was grateful for the public support his school received to bring the playground together.
Wheels in motion for routing plan
The City of Lethbridge is moving ahead with its Lethbridge Transit 10-Year Strategic Routing Plan by implementing cost-neutral portions first.
During their regular meeting on Monday, city council was presented with portions of the plan designed to ease pressure on the southside and prepare the westside for an influx of University of Lethbridge UPass riders.
The plan involves redistribution of resources away from lower-use areas to high-stress areas.
Transit manager Kevin Ponech told council every effort was made to ensure there would be no disruptions of service in communities where changes were taking place.
“We’re not pulling routes out of neighbourhoods and leaving them holding the bag to try and find their own transportation,” he said.
The proposed change to south route would involve re-allocating the 2018 N-19 Black Wolf expansion initiative to address pressure in the south side of Lethbridge.
The changes to those routes would still meet current service standards and allow the 22S to be shortened in order to provide more reliable timing. The plan also allows for projected growth in the South Brook Gate neighbourhood.
“Mainly what we’re seeing right now is significant pressure on the south end of town,” said Ponech. “The traffic has gotten heavy back there. Our buses are among the traffic, and we’re starting to get behind schedule and arriving at our transfer points late.”
Rotary flag flies at city hall
A city hall flag-raising helped celebrate 100 years of Rotary Club service to Lethbridge.
The mid-morning event, attended by members of the city’s five Rotary groups and their student affiliates, came a day after the successful Rotary Dragon Boat Festival concluded at Henderson Lake. Earlier this month, members planted 100 trees in Nicholas Sheran Park to commemorate the 100-year anniversary.
But there’s more to come, says Mandy DeCecco-Kalebaba, president of the original Rotary Club of Lethbridge.
The club will soon be inviting other Lethbridge organizations to submit funding requests in support of further community initiatives, she says.
“We hope to announce that this summer,” she said, with results released in the fall.
This latest Rotary program would add to an impressive list of causes and projects stretching back to 1919 — when members collected books to stock the city’s new public library.
Drug meeting planned
Lethbridge residents are invited to a special meeting on July 9 to learn about the current drug crisis and needle debris in the community.
On Wednesday, City of Lethbridge officials confirmed that the meeting will take place.
A panel of health, addictions and harm-reduction specialists will provide information to city council members and the public. Community members can attend the meeting at Lethbridge College in the Instructional Building Theatre on July 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. or watch it streamed live at http://www.lethbridge.ca.
Community members are invited to submit questions in advance to the panel by completing an online form at http://www.lethbridge.ca/drugcrisis by July 5.
Floating islands deployed
The City of Lethbridge has acquired nine new BioHaven Treatment Wetlands Floating Islands to help clean up the water naturally in storm water ponds on the south end of Lethbridge.
The floating islands were created by Erik Vandist from VITA Water Technologies and built by the workers of K&S Growers to help build a better ecosystem within the ponds and to make the water quality purer, using native plants from the area.
“We previously installed the floating islands in two other storm ponds around town,” Vandist says. “They really do enhance the environmental and biological health of the pond just by simply growing plants on top of the ponds.”
The BioHaven Floating Treatment Wetlands are constructed out of recycled non-toxic, plastic drinking bottles to float on the surface of the water. The plants seeded on the islands are grown hydroponically through the island and absorb harmful contaminants from the water, while allowing beneficial bacteria to grow.
The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society is returning to the outdoor summer stage at Galt Gardens with a new interpretation of “The Tempest.”
Director DJ Gellatly, who directed “Romeo and Juliet” two years ago, has created a new world for the play, originally set on a fantasy tropical island to be set on a distant planet in outer space.
“The play itself is very different from the other plays that Shakespeare wrote because it has a lot of magical and mystical elements to it,” says Kate Connolly, president of Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society. “Our director has taken an interesting line with this play; he has moved it to another frontier by setting it in outer space, on a distant planet, in the distant future.”