The six-month extension given to Red Deer’s temporary overdose prevention site runs out in about a month.
But clinical manager Sarah Fleck said while there’s no official word from government, Turning Point is optimistic the site will be able to stay open because of the increasing number of overdoses.
“Last week at OPS we had 38 overdoses that required oxygen and or Naloxone,” Fleck said.
Over the last couple of weeks there was an increase of about 100 visits to the site, located downtown in an ATCO trailer at 5246 53rd Ave.
“(Clients) know the drugs are unpredictable and they want to be somewhere where they can have support if they require it.”
She said the unpredictability of the drug supply, created by the pandemic, has increased overdoses. Big drug busts by police also impact supply, and difficulty accessing their drug of choice can make people turn to unfamiliar drugs, or drugs contaminated with opiates.
In December, there were 123 overdoses at the site, and 103 in January. That’s a lot of overdoses considering the site is operating at half the capacity due to COVID restrictions, she said.
Last month, there were 2,568 visits to the site by 198 different clients.
Fleck said COVID also makes clients more susceptible to overdoses.
“For people living with vulnerabilities and living on the street, it’s just one extra layer of stress and layer of complication because they are often unable to access some of the services they were able to access prior to COVID.”
Staff are providing COVID testing, and help clients access accommodations for isolation.
“During COVID, we’re responding to overdoses like we always have, but we’re also contributing to reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in Red Deer.”
She said staff also continue to build relationships with clients and provide referrals to detox and treatment options, which is another reason to be optimistic that the site will be funded in the future.
“We’re confident in the work that we’re doing and that it’s making a difference in the community, not just for the clients we serve, but in the overall community. I hope that’s recognized and we’re seen as part of an essential service for the people who are using substances in the community,” Fleck said.
Red Deer Dream Centre will be one of the treatment options available in the future.
Co-chair Wes Giesbrecht said the centre should be open by the end of the year.
Located in the former Lotus nightclub building at 4614 50th Ave., the 48-bed, Christian-based, live-in treatment facility will run seven-week programs for men.
Giesbrecht said the plan is to start construction in March, which should take six months. Since July almost $800,000 has been raised for renovations, including gifts in kind, cash donations and other assets.
“We have no doubt that we will raise the required $1.4 million by the time we have to open our doors,” Giesbrecht said.