Access to a Red Deer addiction program for children and youth will soon increase by 70 per cent with the completion of a new protective safe house.
The $9.1-million, eight-bed facility replaces a temporary five-bed site. The provincial government program has operated in a few Red Deer locations since 2006.
When it opens in the next few weeks, the program will be capable of treating about 170 children and youth annually.
Amy Cote, a care manager with Alberta Health Services, said with the opioid crisis, more children are needing medical supports to deal with their addictions. The new facility is better suited to address more complex cases.
“Addictions don’t discriminate. They’re coming in and really needing that medically supported model,” Cote said.
Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour Society, said youth have to be a focus when it comes to addictions.
“I see people every day at Safe Harbour who are 20 and 30 years old in dire need of help. Maybe they wouldn’t have gone so far if we could have helped them sooner,” said Hoffman, whose agency operates Red Deer’s adult detox and a warming centre for the homeless.
“It’s really tough on the families. Back in the olden days, we were worried about our drunk uncles or grandfathers. Now it’s our kids, our young people.”
The provincial program allows parents or guardians of children or youth under age 18 who are abusing alcohol or drugs, to apply to provincial court for an apprehension and a 10-day confinement order for detox and assessment.
The focus of the program is to help children and youth whose substance use has caused, or is likely to cause, significant physical, psychological or social harm to themselves, or physical harm to others, and who are refusing voluntary treatment.
The expanded program offers assessment, detoxification, addictions counselling, health services and 24-hour care and supervision. The new space has more security and safety for clients and staff, a more home-like environment, and room for family therapy and work with community partners.
The facility’s location cannot be identified to protect the safety, privacy and confidentiality of clients.
The program also operates in Edmonton, Calgary and Grande Prairie. The only site with more beds than Red Deer is in Edmonton, which has nine beds.
As a provincial program, children or youth in the Red Deer area may be sent to another city, depending on the availability of local beds.
Hoffman said she is hopeful the province will also prioritize a much-needed 24-hour homeless shelter that includes an expanded adult detox and other services, such as mental health support. Putting everything under one roof would be cost efficient, she said.
“We’re aching for space. One day last week, during the cold, we had 162 people through the warming centre with two toilets,” said Hoffman about the centre housed in two ATCO trailers in Safe Harbour’s parking lot.
She said there are no other toilets readily available to the city’s homeless.