Red Deer is included in Alberta’s new opioid awareness campaign.
Forty billboards will be going up in the province’s seven major centres, including two in Red Deer, as well as posters and advertising on the Red Deer College campus.
Billboards are located on 55th Avenue and Edgar Industrial Drive. Information will also be found at some Red Deer restaurants and bars.
Stacey Carmichael, executive director of the community agency Turning Point, said she has already heard the radio advertisements and believes it will make a difference.
“People are dying, almost two people every day in Alberta. If this can help save some lives, that’s wonderful,” Carmichael said on Tuesday.
It’s the province’s first campaign developed with community stakeholders and Albertans who either use opioids, or have family or friends who use or have died from an opioid overdose.
Turning Point was one of the stakeholders that provided input.
Recent statistics show the rate of opioid deaths is climbing in Central Alberta. Between Jan. 1 to Nov. 11, 2017 there were nine carfentanil deaths and 37 fentanyl deaths.
Turning Point has advocated for the development of a supervised drug consumption site in Red Deer. So far city council has changed its bylaws to allow a mobile supervised injection site be developed.
Next month Lethbridge will be opening the first supervised consumption site in North America that will allow all modes of consumption — injection, inhalation, oral ingestion, and inter-nasally.
Carmichael said that’s exactly what Red Deer needs.
“That’s what our needs assessment tells us we need in our community. People often attribute overdose from an opioid to injection drug use when that is not the case. People are overdosing by taking pills and smoking different drugs.
“We’re a little worried if we can’t provide a really robust service that people who are concerned — and they are concerned about overdoses — will revert to injection drug use so they can be safe in their drug use.”
But all consumption modes won’t be possible in a mobile consumption site, she said.
“A mobile site is better than no site, but we can’t expect the same results a fixed site would give us.”