Saving lives at Calgary’s supervised consumption site

Saving lives at Calgary’s supervised consumption site

Red Deer working to choose a site

In its first month the life-saving staff at Calgary’s new supervised drug consumption site responded to 26 overdoses.

Claire O’Gorman, program co-ordinator of Safeworks that operates the site, said only two overdoses required EMS attendance so the majority were handled by registered nurses on site.

Temporarily operating in an ATCO trailer in the parking lot of Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre in Calgary’s downtown core, the site opened Oct. 30. A permanent site under construction at the centre is expected to open in the new year.

O’Gorman said 224 different individuals accessed the site in the first month, and there were 990 visits with 84 per cent of visitors there to use drugs.

“I sort of did expect these types of numbers. There’s certainly a really big need in our community and I think quite truthfully it’s just beginning to touch some of that,” O’Gorman said.

Clients must be at least 16 to use drugs at the site and are encouraged to stay up to two hours after using drugs.

With Red Deer in the process of determining a location for its supervised consumption site, her advice was to involve people with lived drug experience in designing the program. Safeworks also maintains a good relationship with the city’s vulnerable population.

“We’ve been around for a long time offering harm reduction and needle distribution in our community and I think having that existing trust and relationship and understanding our client population has been really important.”

Staff are welcoming and non-judgmental and feedback has been positive, she said.

“We’ve heard that people just think it’s fabulous. To me that’s the greatest indicator of success, that our clients feel that it’s meeting their needs.”

Red Deer is considering six possible locations for its supervised consumption site — Turning Point, Safe Harbour facilities, Red Deer hospital, or health clinics in Johnstone Park, 49th Street, or Bremnar Avenue.

A public hearing on the locations will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. in city council chambers.

Calgary’s site is located at an Alberta Health Services (AHS) facility where Safeworks, an AHS outreach program, has its home base.

O’Gorman said locating the AHS consumption site at an AHS facility in the downtown core serving the inner city population made the most sense because of the high number of overdoses there.

“We have a really high concentration, not necessarily of overdose deaths, but of EMS call outs to overdoses happening within sort of a two-block radius of the Chumir.”

The site is open from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day with three staff on at all times including two registered nurses. Clients also have access to a social worker and dietician.

She said those coming to the site are experiencing multiple forms of vulnerability and are at a really high risk of not only overdose but other health problems related to injection drug use.

“So this is an opportunity to not only address an overdose when it happens, or prevent it in the first place, but also have harm reduction conversations and provide some really good education and teaching as well as connect people to care and services.”

She said about 16 per cent of visits were by people who weren’t there to use drugs but connect with Safeworks or get harm reduction supplies. A total of 138 naloxone kits were distributed in the first month.

“We’re engaging with people who have not engaged with our services in the past. I’m not sure for what reasons that might have been. It’s been a really great opportunity to form new relationships and get people engaged into care.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read