Red Deer’s drug overdose prevention site has helped avert 437 ambulance calls since opening its doors in October.
This represents a significant saving in hospital emergency department costs and resources, notes an August report from the Alberta Community Council on HIV.
The council supports community responses to HIV, sexually transmitted infections, harm reduction, education and health promotion.
The supervised consumption facilities in Alberta provide cost-effective and efficient health services, the reports states, adding annually, each site in the province is estimated to save between $200,000 and $6 million.
It’s estimated 89 per cent of overdose events at such sites avoid EMS calls.
Turning Point’s executive director, Stacey Carmichael, welcomes the findings of the report.
Provincial funding has been on hold for future sites in Medicine Hat, Calgary and Red Deer until a review is completed.
The provincial decision does not affect the temporary overdose prevention site in Red Deer.
Averting 437 EMS calls is a “pretty substantial number,” said Carmichael, adding it means those resources are available for other patients in the Red Deer community.
The report says out of the more than 300,000 visits to safe consumption sites so far, no one has died from drug use in Alberta. Health care staff have successfully reversed 4,305 overdoses, with a 100 per cent success rate between November 2017 and May of this year.
The report focuses on the need for safe consumption sites in the province, with an average of almost two people dying per day from opioids in Alberta outside of such facilities.
In Red Deer, the number of overdoses reversed since October to May of this year is 481.
Carmichael said July (which is not included in the report) was one of the busier months at the overdose prevention site, with 151 overdoses reversed.
“I’m really happy that we were there,” said Carmichael, reflecting on the high number.
“It could be because it’s potentially summer, and there were instances of reports of high potency drugs, that type of thing. It’s hard to say why.”
The overdose prevention site in Red Deer has experienced an increase in demand, with 20,828 visits since opening in October, and averaging about 200 unique visitors per month, the report states.
The temporary site started with 600 visits in October, and in May, recorded 3,207 visits – an increase of about 400 per cent.
The report also touches on crime, saying that evidence has found safe consumption sites have no impact on criminal offences in communities.
Carmichael said the report states that while wrongdoing is often linked to safe consumption sites, crime and disorder have their own trends within cities that predate the facilities.
“Often times, SCS can become a scapegoat for broader anxieties about disorder in the community, but there’s no clear link between crime and implementation of these services,” she noted.
Needle debris is another topic in the report. In the case of the safe consumption site in Lethbridge, there’s been a 70 per cent reduction in needle distribution and an 83 per cent increase in the needle return rate.
Although the exact numbers for needle distribution and pick up are not kept the same way in Red Deer, Carmichael said syringe distribution out of Turning Point is down by about 31 per cent since about a year ago.
She credited the overdose prevention site for the decrease.
“So not only are they staying safer, they’re leaving the drug debris at the site,” she explained.