Five Supervised Consumption Service facilities in Alberta have received federal approval. There are four opening in the city of Edmonton with one of them the first in-patient program in North America.
Another site in Lethbridge will open in 2018.
There are plans in the works for a facility in Grande Prairie. H.I.V. North Executive Director Melissa Byers explains that it is exciting for these facilities to pave the way. A needs assessment was completed in August for the swan city and a final report was sent to the Alberta Community Council on H.I.V.
“What we did was interview 200 people that use drugs and asked them about what they use, how they use it, and if they would use a site. Over 80 percent that participated in the survey indicated that they would use the site if it was located in Grande Prairie,” explained Byers, following the announcement of the five approvals.
She says they also collect overdose rates and data from their partners like Alberta Health Services. The next step is to prepare documents to apply for a federal exemption.
“We have decided that we do want to do an integrated site model which means that wrap around support will be available at the consumption site. We just don’t know the location yet or have a building determined,” said Byers.
The hope is to have the facility open within the next couple of years depending on funding from Alberta Health. A proposal for funding will need to be submitted and a timeline can be determined from there, according to Byers. The model from Lethbridge would most likely be similar in Grande Prairie and it would be capable of helping about 60 to 70 people in a day.
She says the feat will be expensive as they will have to retrofit a building, keep the facility sterile, and follow progression with Health Canada as supervised consumption services begin to include ingestion and inhalation, not just injection.
During a media conference Wednesday, Dr. Verna Yiu, President and Chief Executive Officer of AHS, explained that these services will provide a safe environment for patients at risk of overdose.
“This sends a strong message to our patients and all Albertans who struggle with substance use, a message that shows we care about them, that their lives matter.”
According to Alberta Health Services, there were 343 deaths due to drug overdoses involving fentanyl in the province in 2016. A report from Alberta Health from earlier this year found Grande Prairie has the highest rate of fentanyl overdose deaths in the province through the first six months of 2017.
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