Naloxone kits to counteract opioid overdose are available to drug users in Red Deer while the province waits to determine if the city needs a supervised drug consumption site to respond to the opioid crisis. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Naloxone kits to counteract opioid overdose are available to drug users in Red Deer while the province waits to determine if the city needs a supervised drug consumption site to respond to the opioid crisis. (File photo by Advocate staff)

What supervised drug consumption could look like in Red Deer

Expanding harm reduction

If Red Deer gets a supervised drug consumption site, Red Deer Coalition on the Opioid Crisis recommends it be placed at an existing organization that provides harm reduction programming.

Coalition chair Sarah Fleck said the coalition’s needs assessment study that was recently submitted to the province rejects a stand-alone facility or mobile program, and favours an integrated service model.

“That’s the one that is actually the most common model and the one that’s had the most success,” said Fleck who is also nursing manager with Turning Point, Red Deer’s harm reduction agency.

The coalition proposes a consumption site run seven days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day, with registered nurses to provide immediate medical care if overdoses occur.

“It also gives the nurse a really big opportunity to educate on how to use drugs more safely and also the potential harms that we hear in the office right now associated with new drugs on the street.”

She said the coalition, which hopes to hear back from the the Minister’s Opiate Emergency Response Commission by the end of October,

did not go so far as recommend which Red Deer organization be chosen to house the consumption site.

Fleck said a harm reduction organization would already have a relationship with people using drugs and could be a one-stop shop where they could access all the services they need in one location.

“It needs to act as a really comprehensive site for both accessing harm reduction, but also accessing health services, having rooms and space available for external agencies and professionals to come in to provide that wrap-around care — addictions and mental health support, housing support, income support.

“All of those different branches that will assist people moving out of the situations that they’re in when they’re ready, is definitely vital to having a successful supervised consumption service.”

Fleck said data shows that supervised consumption does not bring new drugs users to the area and actually improves community safety.

“It decreases petty crime around the area. That’s mostly related to the fact that people have a safe space to use and have a safe space afterward to be monitored for overdose, and also have peer support and have access to other services.”

Clients would not be allowed to leave the site with any equipment they use on site. Designated staff would respond to community concerns and keep the nearby neighbourhood clean of needle debris, she said.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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