Red Deer’s temporary Overdose Prevention Site is located in an ATCO trailer on the property of Safe Harbour Society, at 5246 53rd Ave. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Overdose prevention site helps reduce fentanyl deaths in Red Deer

Two fentanyl-related deaths in first three months of 2019

The wait continues for the provincial government to review proposed supervised drug consumption sites like the one that’s on hold in Red Deer.

Meanwhile, the city has recorded fewer fentanyl-related deaths in the first three months of 2019, in part due to its overdose prevention facility, the temporary solution put in place while waiting for a supervised drug consumption site.

After the election, the United Conservative government put a halt to new consumption sites pending the review.

A former Red Deer overdose prevention site user said the facility is better equipped to deal with overdoses than people are on their own.

“I just really hope that things work out for the permanent site here, and that they’re able to follow through and build it and have it open when it’s suppose to. It’s done a lot of good,” said the former client, who now receives Suboxone, a medication to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

“It’s had a really positive impact in a lot of ways. If people could just see past the bias to what’s going on here, I think that would make a world of difference. If you just look at the facts and not the opinions, you can see what’s taken place.”

He said fentanyl is a continuing problem in Red Deer.

“Before it was just opiates in pill form. It was so rare to hear of an overdose. People weren’t dying. The change that has taken place since fentanyl has come in is just unreal.

“It’s scary and it’s such a strong narcotic that now people addicted to it don’t get any relief from using other opiates. It has to be fentanyl. Nothing else cuts it because of how strong it is,” the former client said.

Steve Buick, a spokesman for Alberta Health, said Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan has been confirming details for the review and will likely make an announcement in the next week or two, but no date has been set.

“We’ve said from the start it’s a priority,” Buick said.

Luan has said in the past it would take a few months to do the review, so it may be complete by the fall, Buick said.

Last week, a first-quarter report released by Alberta Health showed 137 fentanyl deaths so far in Alberta compared to 168 during the same period in 2018. The central zone had eight deaths, including two in Red Deer, compared to 18 in 2018.

Buick said the causes of some deaths take longer to confirm, so the number of fatalities will likely increase for the first quarter.

“The latest quarter that seems to show a big drop is certainly not a final figure,” Buick said.

While there is some reason for optimism, there needs to be some perspective, he said.


Fentanyl-related deaths down in Red Deer through first quarter of 2019

Red Deer sees highest rate of fentanyl deaths

From Oct. 1, 2018, to June 20, 2019, there were 24,680 visits to Red Deer’s overdose prevention site by 483 individuals. Since it began operating 24 hours a day, there has been an average of 3,750 visits per month, or 125 a day.

So far, staff have responded to 598 suspected opioid overdoses with only 48 requiring EMS.

Stacey Carmichael, the executive director of Turning Point, which operates the site that opened in October, said it’s great that fewer people are dying, but she added she would hate the latest numbers to give people a false sense of security.

“Drugs are still contaminated. People are still overdosing. We still have a lot of work to do,” Carmichael said.

“What’s happening is lots of people are accessing services like the overdose prevention site. There are still lots of overdoses taking place. They’re just taking place in a safer environment.”

The Alberta Health report showed the city’s two fentanyl-related deaths happened in the downtown.

“That’s why we feel it’s important for services to stay where the people are,” said Carmichael.

She said the overdose prevention site definitely has reduced the number of deaths and made a substantial impact on 911 calls, but credits the distribution of naloxone kits, the ramping up of the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program and Safe Harbour’s medical detox with also making a difference.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Turning Point

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jason Aquino has been adding to his front lawn Halloween display for the past five years. “I wanted to do it big this year, because even in the pandemic, we can still enjoy Halloween,” says the Red Deer father.
Halloween spookiness rises to new level

Rare astronomical occurrence caps off a strange holiday

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

Advocate file photo
Man awaiting murder trial facing two new trials for breaching release conditions

Quentin Strawberry going to trial in March in connection with 2019 murder

Ecole La Prairie students and teachers dressed up in Halloween costumes and paraded by Barrett Kiwanis Place, while waving at the building’s residents in Red Deer on Friday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Ecole La Prairie students parade in Halloween costumes for Red Deer seniors

Dozens of Red Deer students put on their Halloween costumes to spread… Continue reading

Advocate file photo
Preliminary hearing set for Walmart shooting suspect

Chase Freed facing second-degree murder and attempted murder charges

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

Imagining the origins of Halloween

Long ago and far away, a small assemblage of English people gathered… Continue reading

Red Deer College president Peter Nunoda. (Photo by contributed)
Peter Nunoda: Winter term will be busier on RDC campus

In my column last month, I shared details about Red Deer College’s… Continue reading

Canada Artistic Swimming plans to ‘rip off the band-aid’ to create better environment

Canada Artistic Swimming plans to ‘rip off the band-aid’ to create better environment

North Carolina's Myles Dorn (1) celebrates a big stop with teammate Patrice Rene (5) during the first quarter of the team's NCAA college football game against Miami in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. Canadian Rene appears set to return to North Carolina's lineup in time for the No. 15 Tarheels' rivalry game against Virginia and a potential all-Canadian showdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris Seward
Canadian Patrice Rene appears set to return to North Carolina’s lineup after injury

Canadian Patrice Rene appears set to return to North Carolina’s lineup after injury

Regina Pats defenceman Cale Fleury (4) tries to clear OHL Hamilton Bulldogs forward Nicholas Caamano (10) from in front of the net during third period Memorial Cup semifinal action in Regina on Friday, May, 25, 2018. The Ontario Hockey League will not have bodychecking this coming season. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's minister of sport, confirmed the decision on Friday afternoon.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
MacLeod: No bodychecking allowed in upcoming Ontario Hockey League season

MacLeod: No bodychecking allowed in upcoming Ontario Hockey League season

Colorado Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz (39) makes the save on Minnesota Wild's Alex Galchenyuk (27) during third period NHL exhibition game action in Edmonton, on Wednesday July 29, 2020. Galchenyuk says his new team is getting a motivated player with something to prove. The forward signed a one-year, US$1.05-million contract with the Ottawa Senators in free agency earlier this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alex Galchenyuk eager for fresh start with Senators: ‘I have a lot to prove’

Alex Galchenyuk eager for fresh start with Senators: ‘I have a lot to prove’

Bayern's Alphonso Davies, right, challenges PSG's Thilo Kehrer, left, during the Champions League final soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Canadians Alphonso Davies, Will Johnson, Pat Onstad and Dwayne De Rosario are among the 134 finalists for Major League Soccer's "25 Greatest" players. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Miguel A. Lopes/Pool
Davies, DeRo join Beckham, Giovinco and others as finalists for MLS’ ‘25 Greatest’

Davies, DeRo join Beckham, Giovinco and others as finalists for MLS’ ‘25 Greatest’

Michael Jordan’s NASCAR team partners with Gibbs, Toyota

Michael Jordan’s NASCAR team partners with Gibbs, Toyota

Most Read