Community conversations on supervised injection services start in Red Deer

Turning Point clients would overwhelmingly access supervised consumption services if they were offered in the City of Red Deer.

A survey conducted by Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis showed that of the more than 250 respondents, 85 per cent would be willing to use the services.

The survey is just one part of the work behind a community needs assessment to see if Red Deer could offer the services. Another part, community conversations started Tuesday night with the first of nine of these sessions.

The conversation featured people who work with Turning Point and other local community health workers, talking about what the services could look like, the potential impacts and benefits and deadly impact of the opioid crisis.

“I think it’s a contentious issue and I think a lot of people have legitimate concerns,” said Sarah Fleck, Turning Point Interim Operations Manager. “We want to provide education to them and give them an opportunity to state their concerns so we can address them.”

Much of the conversation from the about 15 participants focused on how the services would affect the crime rate, what additional supports would be offered, how the services would impact needle debris in the city.

The presenters said the services would decrease overdoses, as well as the spread of diseases such as HIV-AIDS and Hepatitis. It would also reduce the volume of needle debris around the city as they would be collected on site.

A potential site would have two staff members on duty at all times and one nurse to supervise consumption. Drugs are not dispensed or purchased on site, but brought in from outside. The services would be offered at an existing facility and would not be available 24 hours a day.

Having access to additional supports was important for some participants. Housing and addictions support are just two of what could be offered to people coming and going.

“It took a pretty serious crisis in my case to get me the access to resources that helped me get clean,” said Keira Vander Vliet, a participant.

Vander Vliet has been sober now for 18 months, but it wasn’t long ago that he used cocaine, oxycontin, oxyneo, fentanyl, crystal meth and hydromorphone. He recounted some of his experience and how he decided to change his life saying it “wasn’t livable with drugs.”

He speaks to people in Red Deer who are still using and he wants to help them get clean. He said having these facilities would benefit them.

“If for no other reason than just having them get access to people who have compassion for them,” said Vander Vliet. “If they find recovery appealing for them, that’s how they’re going to find it is by having a place free of judgment. Like a consumption site would be.”

The information gathered from the conversations will become part of a report and be part of the larger needs assessment the Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis is undertaking.

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