Almost a third of surveyed local drug users report overdosing in last six months

Local survey of drug use presented to Red Deer city council

Turning Point hopes to sweep streets for needles

Red Deer’s Turning Point Society wants to hire a worker to “sweep” the streets around its downtown location, picking up any needle debris before businesses open.

The funding needed for that staff position falls within Turning Point’s proposal for getting a supervised drug consumption site.

The local harm reduction agency, which hopes to locate the SCS on its own premises at 4611 50th Ave., submitted the proposal to Alberta Health at the end of September.

It also includes a funding request for renovations to give the Turning Point building a nicer look from the street and move administrative offices to the second floor, freeing up first floor space for the SCS.

Turning Point’s executive-director Stacey Carmichael spoke to Red Deer city council Tuesday along with two other administrators — project consultant Rebecca Hare and nursing manager Sarah Fleck.

They presented results from a local drug use survey. It was completed by 258 people who use street drugs — a small slice of Turning Point’s 1,600 Central Zone clients.

The survey showed nearly 30 per cent of these respondents had overdosed at least once in the past six months, and that nearly 60 per cent had seen somebody else overdose in the same period.

More than 86 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to use a supervised drug consumption site.

Of these, 95 per cent said the Turning Point offices is the preferred location, followed by Safe Harbour Society (80 per cent), a mobile unit operated by Turning Point (70 per cent), or a health clinic (63 per cent).

Carmichael said the established relationships the respondents have with Turning Point staff is the main reason her facility was favoured. Turning Point, formerly known as the Central Alberta AIDS Network, was started 30 years ago in response to the AIDS epidemic.

According to the local survey: Most Red Deer-area drug users are between the ages of 31 and 40, with the second highest group aged 41 to 50, and then 25-30.

l The majority are Caucasian, followed by First Nations and Métis.

l The greatest number make less than $20,000 a year, but 29 respondents earn $50,000 or more annually.

l Of the drugs used in public places, 76 per cent are injectable. Carmichael said this is of great concern to the community. But she noted a SCS is shown to reduce needle debris because most used needles are left at the injection site.

Fleck said another reason to locate the SCS at Turning Point is the agency can provide access to “wrap-around services,” including mental health, housing, social services, medical treatment.

The staff members stressed there’s an equally strong need for a local residential drug treatment centre.

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