Turning Point Society’s executive director says it’s still unclear why the provincial government has decided to have Alberta Health Services assume operations of Red Deer’s overdose prevention site.
On Friday, the government announced the site will transition to a mobile site operated by AHS over the next three to six months.
“We will continue to provide the highest standard of service delivery throughout this possible transitional period to reduce the impact community members face,” said Stacey Carmichael, the executive director of the harm-reduction agency.
“We were surprised by this decision and are still unsure of its rationale.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the management team of Turning Point Society’s overdose prevention site overheard a city councillor and a local MLA’s assistant at a local café “openly discussing” the Government of Alberta and the City of Red Deer’s proposed changes to the operations of the site, including alluding to the fact that it will become a mobile site, the agency stated in a media release.
While still determining the full impact a possible transition would have, Carmichael said the non-profit would continue to work closely with the Alberta government, the City of Red Deer and community partners to come to the best solution.
“Turning Point Society has a 35-year relationship with our community, and it has taken time to create a safe environment for the vast population we serve,” said Carmichael, adding that a quick transition will likely create hesitation for clients accessing future services.
“Should the operation of the OPS transition to AHS, it is critical the same capacity level is maintained and the same services be provided.”
While working towards a permanent supervised consumption services site along with community partners, the harm-reduction agency took on the operation of a temporary site on Oct. 1, 2018. This was in response to community concerns about the rising rate of overdose fatalities in central Alberta. Since opening, the OPS has had 168,957 site visits, and medical staff have responded to 5,490 adverse events.
“We have made significant strides in reducing the number of overdose fatalities in Central Alberta,” Carmichael said.
“However, the data shows that the demand for the life-saving services offered through the OPS are just as essential today as they were when we opened.”
According to Carmichael, the 60 staff employed by Turning Point Society to operate the site are now grappling with the fate of their future employment and the fate of the clients they serve.
“It is unfortunate that our staff had to find out the way they did, and we will do our best to provide ongoing support and alleviate the impact of this decision in the months to come.”