The Rural Opioid Dependency Program has been expanded to include Red Deer and area as the city struggles amidst the opioid crisis.
The videoconferencing program that eliminates the need to travel for treatment started last spring for Central Albertans in and around Rocky Mountain House, Stettler, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin, Sylvan Lake, Olds, Drayton Valley, Camrose, and Wainwright.
Funded by Alberta Health, clients work with counsellors and receive the medication Suboxone to deal with their withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.
Program director Dr. Nathaniel Day, based out of Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka, said Red Deer needs more help and the program is another treatment tool.
Of the approximately 200 active clients, 20 are now from the Red Deer area and there’s room for more.
“The people that we are treating aren’t overdosing. They’re not dying. They’re not going to emergency rooms for visits related to opioids and opioid overdoses and opioid-related problems. They’re significantly more likely to be getting back to work and back to their regular lives before they got trapped on an opioid,” Day said.
He said most Red Deer clients go to Alberta Health Services Central Zone’s 49th Street Community Health Centre to videoconference. They receive their Suboxone at local pharmacies.
“If we had a young person who phoned us today, we’d likely be able to get them into treatment today or tomorrow.”
For information or to access to the Rural Opioid Dependency Program call toll-free 1-844-383-7688.
Day said statistics show that men in their early 30s and women in their late 20s are more likely to die from an overdose. However men are four times more likely to die. So far there’s only slightly more men than women in the program.
“Many people we see got into opioids because of recreational drugs. We also see many people who got into opioids because they were prescribed something. They had an injury, they had a surgery, got onto an opioid and then for whatever reason individually, ended up getting hooked on the pills.”
Clients are responsible for the cost of Suboxone, which may be covered under health plans.
He said many clients get emergency medication coverage through the provincial government that gives them 100 per cent coverage for a short time. Clients can also access supplemental medication benefit through Alberta Blue Cross, which is subsidized by the province. The benefit takes about three months to access and covers a portion of Suboxone costs.
Day said the Rural Opioid Dependency Program will help clients apply for coverage.