Sarah Fleck, clinical manager at Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site, wants to help counter the misinformation circulating on social media. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer’s overdose prevention staff want to counter misinformation

There are no free drug giveaways, and needles do not leave the building

Red Deer’s overdose prevention centre does not give out free drugs and does not create needle debris in the streets.

Those are the first two myths that Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point Society of Central Alberta, wants to puncture.

Dispelling misinformation being asserted and repeated on social media, Carmichael said drug users do not get free drugs at the site. They bring their own substances into the centre that’s set up in a trailer in the Safe Harbour parking lot.

Staff observe as people take these drugs to make sure they don’t fatally overdose.

When clients are finished using needles, these are collected inside the centre. “They never leave the premises,” said Carmichael.

She also wants to counter a point made by Mayor Tara Veer about a supposed lack of security at the site.

Carmichael stressed the overdose prevention centre has always had an on-site security presence.

A couple of staff members did the job for the first few months, and since then, two professional security guards from Tri-West Security have been on duty.

Since Safe Harbour also employs two on-site security guards, there are a total of four security guards at the site 24/7, said Carmichael.

She said Veer is the only city council member who has never visited the site. The mayor had a pre-existing engagement when a tour was booked.

Carmichael invites Veer to come at her convenience. “We would love to give her a tour.”

She also disputes that gaining wrap-around services wouldn’t help addicted people fully until Red Deer gains a residential treatment centre.

Residential treatment is not the best way to get people off of opioids, said Carmichael.

She explains that opioid addicts have a very high relapse rate (90 per cent), so opioid replacement therapy is considered by experts to be the best way of weaning people off dependency.

In residential treatment, addicts are cut off from drugs entirely. Their system loses a tolerance for opioids, so a relapse often proves fatal, said Carmichael.

She noted Red Deer already has many opioid replacement therapies available through Safe Harbour, a detox centre, or the hospital.

Sarah Fleck, clinical manager at Red Deer’s overdose prevention centre, is discouraged that a lot of misinformation is circulating in the community.

The facts are:

* The local overdose prevention centre has had 695 clients since opening.

* There were 50,378 visits from drug users, averaging 165 each day.

* So far, there have been 1,347 overdoses, with 57 requiring EMS support.

Fleck said there’s staff to respond to business concerns and help clean up debris around the site.

“We are currently awaiting the opportunity to expand our scope by having a (safe consumption site)” to provide many more services, including counselling, access to medical care and opioid replacement therapy.

The results of a provincial review into safe consumption site are expected to be released in a few weeks.

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