Red Deer business owners have plans to turn the former Lotus Club into a residential drug treatment centre. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer business owners want to turn nightclub into drug treatment centre

Local investors want to model it after Calgary Dream Centre

A shut-down Red Deer nightclub could be converted into an addictions treatment centre if a group of business owners’ plans come through.

Since Alberta Health isn’t stepping in to fund a residential drug treatment centre for Red Deer, then the community needs to do something, said Wes Giesbrecht, a local realtor.

He is representing a group of “faith-based” investors who have bought the former Lotus Nightclub in an effort to ease the city’s opioid crisis.

Giesbrecht is alarmed that Red Deer still holds the No. 1 spot in Alberta for overdose deaths from fentanyl.

Forty-seven local people died in 2018, more than double the 23 deaths in 2017. Based on a population of 100,000, Red Deer’s opioid death rate is double that of most other Alberta centres.

Considering negative impacts on the downtown, “we’re at defcon nine,” he said, using a U.S. military term for imminent danger.

More hospitalizations because of opioid crisis

Local overdose death rate highest in Alberta

“This is a heartbeat (cause) because we know there’s a need,” added Giesbrecht. “We cannot continue this way any longer. There needs to be some action.”

The local business owners purchased the former Lotus Nightclub in downtown Red Deer last year. They intend to reopen it as a 20- to 40-bed addictions treatment centre, modelled after the Christian-based Calgary Dream Centre.

Giesbrecht said studies show there’s an 86 per cent success rate of former addicts staying clean once they manage to stay off drugs for six months.

While Red Deer has several detox facilities that help people initially get off drugs, there’s no program for helping them to learn to live without opioids over the longer term, he added.

Plans for the former nightclub include adding one or two floors to the building and installing beds and program space needed for a 49-day residential treatment program.

Giesbrecht believes a 40-bed residential program would be filled right away if it opened tomorrow. But he understands it will be a long road towards opening a facility.

The group must first obtain non-profit status, as well as a development permit from the city. Then it will embark on a fundraising campaign for $1.5 million to $2 million for the renovations. Getting government grants and corporate sponsorships will both on the agenda.

Giesbrecht is encouraged that some important connections were already made through meetings with local agencies and several Red Deer city councillors. He feels the project has so far received a lot of support.

“It’s something the community has wanted for a long time,” said Stacey Carmichael, executive-director of Turning Point.

While she doesn’t believe a residential drug treatment program is the solution for every drug user, Carmichael added, “it would definitely be one more rung in the ladder” towards stemming the opioid crisis.

While four city councillors who toured the Calgary Dream Centre were generally positive about the local effort, they stopped short of endorsing it, saying they need more details.

Coun. Vesna Higham is pleased with the effort to bring a treatment centre to Red Deer, but said development issues still need to be identified by the municipal planning commission.

Coun. Tanya Handley wants to hear more input about the location and programs that would be offered.

“Like any good idea, we have to see how it rolls out and is driven,” said Coun. Ken Johnston.

Coun. Lawrence Lee commends the instigators for their compassion, but wonders if a mandatory drug treatment program for addicts in the criminal justice system is more needed.

Giesbrecht said a community open house will be held at the former Lotus Nightclub at the end of the month revealing more details.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

opioid crisis

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

Just Posted

Opposition promises new info on Trans Mountain costs

OTTAWA — Federal opposition parties are promising new information about the price… Continue reading

Bed Bath & Beyond rises as retailer unveils turnaround plan

Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond are moving sharply higher before the… Continue reading

Inflation rises again, hitting 2.4 per cent in January, Statistics Canada says

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the annual pace of inflation in Canada… Continue reading

Hereditary chiefs say they’ll meet with ministers if RCMP get out

VANCOUVER — A small, mobile RCMP detachment in a remote area of… Continue reading

City’s cardiac care is ‘a blight’

Human lives are at stake, so the provincial government can’t afford to… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

New highway to B.C. proposed

The Howse Pass shortcut to British Columbia is worth taking another look… Continue reading

Stolen car provides opportunity to try out public transit

I had my car stolen on Jan. 10, just as our one… Continue reading

Any other protesters would be sitting in jail by now

I’d really like to know why the current Indigenous pipeline blockades aren’t… Continue reading

Wolfpack hooker James Cunningham out for six months after hamstring surgery

The Toronto Wolfpack’s depleted squad has taken another hit with James Cunningham… Continue reading

Virologist: Tokyo Olympics probably couldn’t be held now

TOKYO — A respected Japanese virologist on Wednesday said if the Tokyo… Continue reading

Bong happy ‘Parasite’ succeeded despite disparity it showed

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — Oscar-winning “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho said Wednesday… Continue reading

Vancouver-raised Kenneth Lum among winners of $25K Governor General’s art awards

OTTAWA — Vancouver-bred contemporary artist Kenneth Lum, whose works have challenged notions… Continue reading

Most Read