Red Deer’s Safe Harbour to open a detox centre staffed with nurses

It will mean less hospital visits for clients with severe withdrawal symptoms, says director

A medical detox centre will be opening in Red Deer this spring to help people overcome their alcohol and drug addictions.

“We’re very excited and happy about it,” said Kath Hoffman, executive director of the Safe Harbour Society. Her group has been running a 20-bed “social detox” since 2006 that mostly serves clients from the street population.

Since the facility has no medical staff on site, clients must manage their withdrawals from alcohol or drugs with just food, water and sleep. Whenever serious withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, occur, the client must be rushed to Red Deer hospital’s emergency department, said Hoffman.

All that is about to change, since the Safe Harbour Society received about $400,000 in annual funding from Alberta Health Services to convert the social detox into a medical detox centre. Hoffman believes with more opiate addictions in the community, AHS wanted to beef up community supports.

The new funding will allow Safe Harbour to hire staff nurses to provide 24/7 medical intervention. She feels this will be far better for clients and cause less strain on hospital resources.

Most clients who use the facility are dealing with long-term alcohol addiction, which is difficult to quit safely. Hoffman said the medical detox’s higher level of support will help avoid negative outcomes.

A nurse was already hired to study best practises for medical detox centres, and to develop a service model that suits Red Deer’s needs. Depending on which model is chosen over the next month or two, Hoffman believes four to six nurses will soon be working around the clock. The registered or psychiatric nurses will monitor clients and administer medication as needed.

The Red Deer facility is already running at 90 to 95 per cent capacity, and she believes there could be even greater demand after the changes.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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