Naloxone kits to counteract opioid overdose are routinely handed out to drug users in Red Deer. (File photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Public consultation on drug consumption site in August

Red Deer coalition to complete assessement by September

Turning Point says there will be time for community consultation as the Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis continues its assessment on whether the city needs a supervised drug consumption site.

On Monday city council was worried that the deadline for the study had been switched to July 31 from Sept. 30 and would prevent a thorough assessment and community consultation.

Sarah Fleck, Turning Point interim operations manager, said the province only requested an interim report on preliminary findings be submitted by July 31 for an August meeting of the Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission.

“By the end of July what they’re actually looking for is a provincial snapshot. We are not required to submit everything by the end of July. We are required to submit everything by the end of September as originally stated in our grant agreement,” Fleck said on Tuesday.

She said the coalition, led by Turning Point, will be able to meet both deadlines.

The preliminary report is suppose to include about 100 core client surveys filled out by drug users. The coalition is working to collect a total of 200 to 250 surveys as part of the complete assessment and has already collected about 186, she said.

“We have a lot of new faces doing the survey and that’s because they heard about it through a friend so we’ve had no trouble accessing people to do our surveys.”

Preliminary findings were suppose to include an opinion letter from the city and on Monday council decided it wanted to be able to review the completed study prior to submitting its opinion no later than Dec. 31.

Fleck said the preliminary report will be sent in without the letter.

She also understood council’s focus on community consultation.

“As an agency that’s something we’re really trying to do in the best way we can. We understand that this is potentially a divisive issue and we want to be able to be as collaborative with the community as we can and provide transparent and timely information.”

The coalition will host community engagement sessions in August.

“Those will take place in small groups. We’ll do informational sessions. We’ll do questions and answers and allow people to get a better understanding. It’s open to any community members that are interested.”

Fleck said so far this month there’s been an increase in overdoses reported to Turning Point. In the six days the office has been open this month the agency has heard of 39 overdoses including one fatal overdose, and distributed 136 naloxone kits to reverse opioid overdoses.

“In six days that is a really substantial number for us. It’s worrisome.

“I know the province is working hard on formulating a provincial response and at a local level hopefully that will be inclusive of treatment options and increased access to Suboxone and methadone.”

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