Inhalation booths would cut down on the number of opioid smokers who overdose in the community — sometimes right outside the overdose prevention site, which is not equipped for smokers, says an advocate for addicts.
Staying nearby the Rail Lands site means life-saving help is still available.
“We try to really encourage people to use close by, just so we can respond to them if they need it,” said Sarah Fleck, the clinical manager at Turning Point, which runs the site.
“We recognize an OPS that only does injection is a barrier for some people, and so we try to make sure people have naloxone kits, and they’re not using alone, and that they’re using around people they know can help them if they get into medical distress.”
Fleck said staff at the agency’s main downtown office also respond to about two to four overdoses weekly outside their building.
The overdose prevention site has four injection booths where people can safely use previously obtained drugs, while being monitored by someone trained and able to provide immediate life-saving measures as needed.
Until Friday, the number of booths had been reduced to two to comply with COVID-19 distancing restrictions.
The temporary overdose prevention site was the first step toward the city getting a supervised consumption site that would include an inhalation space.
Operation of the overdose prevention site has been extended to Sept. 30, while the provincial government considers changes to supervised consumption services and other addiction treatment and recovery resources.
Fleck said staff are seeing more new faces at the overdose prevention site.
“We definitely aren’t seeing a decrease in demand for service, especially right now, because people in general, in the vulnerable population, have less service options, less places to go, less people who are able to see them and interact with them.”
Having fewer booths available at the overdose prevention site had also been creating capacity problems, she said.
In May, there were 2,747 visits, down from 2,822 visits in April. In May, visits per day averaged 89, compared to 94 in April.
During each month, 211 clients used the service.
Staff assisted in 60 overdose reversals in May, and 91 in April.
Petra Schultz, co-founder of the provincial organization Moms Stop The Harm, said statistics show EMS calls and emergency room visits for opioid overdoses are up in Edmonton and Calgary.
“With Calgary being high and Edmonton being high, I can’t see how Red Deer would be any different,” Schultz said.
She is waiting for the province to release the first quarter opioid surveillance report. Last year, the report was released in June.
“I’m really concerned that the province is not giving us the numbers. How are we going to know what’s happening and how we need to respond, if they don’t release the overdose rates?”