Red Deer getting temporary supervised consumption site

Site to be set up near Safe Harbour Society downtown in September

A temporary supervised consumption site will be set up in September in Red Deer where the accidental fentanyl poisoning death rate leads the province.

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced Friday the temporary consumption site will be located at Safe Harbour Society site downtown at 5246 53rd Ave.

“This one won’t be mobile. It will be temporary,” she said in an interview.

“We have brought temporary structures into other communities while they are working on long-term solutions.

“And that’s our expectation for Red Deer too, that they are going to keep working on developing what they think a long-term location will be and what kind of additional supports will be helpful there.”

Hoffman acknowledged the urgency of opening a site as soon as possible in Red Deer. “This is definitely the highest rate of any community in the province today.”

The announcement came after Hoffman asked a local steering committee to come forward with a recommendation for the site. A similar site has saved hundreds of lives in Calgary, she said.

“We know that in Calgary … almost 500 overdoses have been reversed since their site opened earlier this year,” she said.

“That’s a lot of folks who are here to live another day and have an opportunity to make another decision tomorrow rather than losing all opportunity and all hope.”

Alberta Health’s opioid surveillance report for the second quarter offers a sobering glimpse of Red Deer’s overdose problem.

In the first six months of the year, the city has a rate of 44.7 apparent accidental fentanyl-related drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 — by far the highest rate in the province where the average among its seven cities is 20.6 deaths. Next closest is Lethbridge at 34.1 deaths. Calgary is at 22.6 and Edmonton at 14.7. Fort McMurray, at 10.1 deaths, has the lowest rate of the seven cities surveyed, which also includes Grande Prairie (29.7) and Medicine Hat (11.7).

Province-wide, there were 160 fentanyl-related deaths in the second quarter, including 18 in Central Zone. Calgary Zone’s 83 deaths was the highest among the province’s five zones followed by Edmonton Zone at 35. There were 170 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta in the first quarter.

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre ranked sixth among facilities providing hospitalization for opioid use and other substance misuse from Jan. 1, 2015 to March 31, 2018. Red Deer’s hospital represented five per cent of all stays. Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton led with 17 per cent of stays.

Hoffman said the province is taking a four-prong approach: harm reduction, enforcement, treatment and prevention.

On the treatment front there are nearly 250 people in Red Deer and area receiving dependency treatment.

“That’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

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