Since the beginning of November, 127 people have received medical help during their drug and alcohol detoxification at Safe Harbour Society.
Converting the agency’s 20 non-medical detoxification beds into medical-supported detox beds was one of the recommendations in the province’s mental health review released February 2016.
On Tuesday morning, Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne visited Safe Harbour to officially kick off the new $1.6-million project.
“They are providing essential treatment for people who are suffering opioid use disorder as well as substance use issues. These upgraded beds will help 300 people from Central Alberta access substance use treatment and supports each year,” Payne said.
She said those with opioid addiction can access medications such as Suboxone and methadone, the type of treatment that’s recognized as the gold standard for people with opioid use disorder.
Between January and September 30 people in Central Alberta died from fentanyl-related overdoses and 16 of those were in Red Deer, she said.
“It’s quite tragic the number of overdose deaths has been on a steady climb since 2015. A lot of the research is showing without some of the interventions that have been done those numbers would be double or triple what we’ve seen. So ultimately we know that we need to make sure that there is more treatment available for people. That they’re able to access opioid treatments when they’re ready. That they’re able to access medically supported detox beds like the ones here in Safe Harbour.
“This is going to be a long-term challenge and we need to keep moving forward and keep working with community partners,” Payne said.
People typically stay seven to 10 days at medical detox, but five beds in Red Deer are available for extended stays to help patients receive care onsite until a space is open in residential treatment, or until housing is secured.
Kath Hoffman, Safe Harbour executive director, said the medical detox has already made a difference in people’s lives by having more options to help with their drug or alcohol dependency. Families also know their loved ones will be taken care of by a doctor or nurse.
“When we’re able to have medical care on the front lines and these partnerships with our health region, that amalgamation of support and resources and connection are exactly the recipe to help these people in their very first steps towards recovery,” Hoffman said.
She said medical detox also frees up beds at the hospital.
Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller said people feel safe at Safe Harbour and welcome.
“This is the right facility, the right place, the right time. It’s been a long time coming and it’s a good first step,” Miller said.
The next step is getting a treatment centre for Central Alberta, she said.
“We’ve got some of the highest opioid deaths in the province and I think a treatment centre would be very welcome in this community,” Miller said.