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

Red Deer reports 6 new cases of COVID-19

COVID-19 modelling projections highlight the importance of “aggressive countermeasures,” says the provincial… Continue reading

Suspected thieves caught red-handed by Sylvan Lake RCMP

Incidents happened last Sunday and Monday in the Birchcliff and Lacombe County areas

Optimist Club of Red Deer donates to youth shelter

The Optimist Club of Red Deer has donated more than $1,800 to… Continue reading

Easter Bunny visiting central Albertans to support food banks

The Easter Bunny has been enlisted to help raise money for local… Continue reading

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Message from RE/MAX Commercial: What to do when ‘sorry we’re temporarily closed’ is part of your business as landlord or tenant

Do you have questions about rent reductions or deferral of lease payments? Experts can help

Armed Forces reports 20 military suicides last year, largest number since 2014

Armed Forces reports 20 military suicides last year, largest number since 2014

‘Little to do with COVID:’ Landowners, law experts criticize well cleanup bill

‘Little to do with COVID:’ Landowners, law experts criticize well cleanup bill

First troops return from Ukraine, in quarantine at Ontario military base

First troops return from Ukraine, in quarantine at Ontario military base

Man charged after licking product in store as part of ‘COVID Challenge:’ police

Man charged after licking product in store as part of ‘COVID Challenge:’ police

Business generally supports changes to wage subsidy rules unveiled by Trudeau

Business generally supports changes to wage subsidy rules unveiled by Trudeau

Most Read