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Red Deer overdose prevention services to become mobile site operated by AHS

Transition to occur over next three to six months
The overdose prevention site in Red Deer, which has been operated by Turning Point, will soon transition to a mobile site operated by Alberta Health Services. (Advocate file photo)

Overdose prevention services in Red Deer will soon transition to a mobile site operated by Alberta Health Services, the provincial government announced on Friday.

In a statement, the Government of Alberta said it will work in partnership with AHS and Turning Point over the next three to six months to implement the transition to a mobile overdose prevention site operated by AHS.

Turning Point Society has been operating the overdose prevention site since October 2018 when it opened its doors as a temporary health service.

READ MORE: Turning Point unsure of rationale behind AHS taking over Red Deer OPS

Mayor Ken Johnston apologized to Turning Point and service providers in the community who learned about the transition after overhearing a councillor talking about it with a provincial colleague.

“We know this is unacceptable and for that we apologize,” Johnston said.

The government claims this transition is necessary to respond to the changing needs in Red Deer while improving the standard of service delivery at the overdose prevention site.

“Overdose prevention services are healthcare services that must meet quality standards to ensure the safety of the community and a high-standard of care,” said Nicholas Milliken, minister of mental health and addiction.

“Alberta Health Services is an accountable and proven operator that has experience managing these services across Alberta. My ministry will be working closely with AHS and the current operator over the next few months to smoothly transition these operations, ensuring there are no gaps in service for clients of the services.”

The statement says Alberta’s government will continue working with the City of Red Deer and the community to put the safety and security of the community first while continuing to provide overdose prevention services in a professional manner.

Johnston said he wants to assure Red Deerians that council remains committed to working with the province to build Red Deer as a recovery community.

“We appreciate the leadership of the Province of Alberta in this area,” said Johnston.

“We thank Turning Point for their years of service and the lives saved over the past several years. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Red Deerians is a top priority, and we are confident this new AHS-Operated mobile site will continue to meet the needs of our residents.”

Once the transition occurs, the new AHS-operated mobile unit will initially operate at the same location as the current overdose prevention site at 5246 53 Ave.

Alberta’s government will continue to work with the City of Red Deer, and may change the location of the service within Red Deer based on input from the municipality ­and the changing needs of the community, the statement said.

Between Oct. 1, 2018 and Jan. 31, 2023, there were 168,957 total site visits with 5,490 adverse events responded to by staff, including 5,003 requiring oxygen and 1,564 requiring naloxone.

In 2022, Turning Point’s NightReach program provided services to community members 9,765 times, a 26 per cent increase over 2021. The program has workers who go out into the community to deliver referrals to health and social services, as well as essential harm reduction resources and supplies.

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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