State says plans are moving forward for alternative safe consumption sites

“Now is the time to double down on our efforts to make addiction recovery as easy as possible for Albertans.”

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Alberta’s opioid-related deaths continued to fall in July last year, and work is underway to establish new monitored safe consumption sites, provincial officials said Thursday.

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According to Alberta Health, 92 Albertans died from opioid overdoses in July, a 47% decrease from the peak number of 174 deaths recorded in November last year.

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That number has been declining nearly every month since February, when 168 people in the state died from opioid overdoses, the majority of which were fentanyl-related.

Calgary’s death toll fell from 62 in February last year to 29 in July.

Opioid-related EMS calls were also down 39% last July from the same month in 2021.

The death toll remains a concern, but its declining trend is cause for optimism and shows that the state’s strategy to attack the epidemic is working and needs to be pursued, said Mike Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Addiction Ellis said.

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“Now is the time to redouble our efforts to make recovery from addiction as easy as possible for people in Alberta,” he said in a statement.

“We will continue to work tirelessly to address the addiction crisis, further reduce the number of deaths, and achieve the best possible treatment and recovery.”

Physicians working with vulnerable people in Calgary noted that the death toll had fallen almost to pre-pandemic levels, reflecting the receding reality of COVID-19.

According to Dr. Monty Gauche, smuggling has become more difficult during the pandemic with more restricted borders, leading to smugglers selling dangerously inferior drugs.

“The current supply of toxic drugs is probably not as bad as it used to be,” he said.

Drug users are now dangerously less isolated and have better access to agonists. Alternatively, drug-replacement treatments have helped, as have other government programs, Ghosh said.

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Dr. Monty Ghosh outside the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Center.
Dr. Monty Ghosh outside the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Center. Darren McCowick/Postmedia

But the same day, Ellis also expressed disappointment that another Calgary homeless shelter, this time Alpha House Society, appears to be delaying the establishment of an alternative monitored consumption site.

“I learned today that Alpha House has decided to put on hold plans to open an overdose prevention site at a Calgary shelter … This decision was made without the input of the Alberta government,” Ellis said. Tweeted on Thursday.

The tweet was deleted later in the day after it was determined there had been a misunderstanding, a spokesperson for Ellis’ office said.

The proposal is still in progress, according to Ellis’ office.

Earlier this month, a proposal to relocate the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Center’s Safeworks site to the Calgary Drop-In Center in East Village received support from residents who said they welcomed some programs but wanted an overdose. Canceled because I didn’t get it. Prevention spreading throughout the city.

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A spokeswoman for the Alpha House Society did not respond to a call for comment on Thursday, but on Sept. 9 a representative for the society said it would consult with the community on the proposal.

“In our state’s drug crisis, we have taken this opportunity to explore the real and pressing need for these services and how, as a city, we can create safe and inclusive communities for all. I look forward to continued discussion on the topic.” Email.

The initiative follows last year’s announcement that the Sheldon M. Chumia Health Center facility on the city’s Beltline will be closed. It remains open for now.

In making that decision, the state was responding to complaints of social disruption related to Sheldon Chumir’s SafeWorks site.

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Last year, the state announced it would replace Safeworks with two smaller sites in better locations.

Meanwhile, the state government said the decline in opioid deaths in the state was the result of a multi-pronged approach to combating the opioid crisis.

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The installation of 8,000 treatment and detox beds, a digital overdose response system and the introduction of the drug Sublocade helped turn the tide, they said.

“Alberta’s model is community-based and focused on increasing access to a coordinated service network that includes prevention, early intervention, mitigation, treatment and recovery support,” said Ellis’ ministry. said in a statement.

Critics of the government’s approach, however, say authorities should be more open to providing safer drug supplies, as was the case in BC, embodied in monitored consumption sites. We have not stepped into harm reduction that has been done.

Ghosh said the policy shows promise, as recent studies in Ontario show the benefits of secure supply in reducing hospital and emergency room admissions. .

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“While a secure supply may have benefits, it is still not without risks. It can be sold, redistributed and used inappropriately,” he said.

And Ghosh, who has worked on the opioid crisis at the drop-in center, said it was important that both there and Alpha House had safe places to consume and that neighboring communities embraced it.

“There will be less overdose on the streets. It’s already happening…[local residents]need to understand that the overall situation will improve,” he said.

— with file by Dylan Short

twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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State says plans are moving forward for alternative safe consumption sites

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