The Alberta Government is looking at opening more supervised consumption sites in what it calls “underserved areas” in Edmonton, after it said the city is experiencing more opioid-related harms than the rest of Alberta.
In a news release the province said “it is clear there is an unmet need south of the river as people currently need to go downtown to access consumption services.”
The Old Strathcona area is the first possible location being considered to expand supervised consumption site services.
“Overdose in the City of Edmonton is not specific to the downtown core where overdose prevention services are currently concentrated,” it added.
The province had closed multiple supervised consumption sites across Alberta, stating it wanted to focus on recovery options instead. Prior to the fall of 2020, supervised consumption services were offered at three sites in central Edmonton.
Advocate and Mom’s Stop the Harm co-founding director Petra Schulz calls the decision an “about face.”
“It’s a tone that we haven’t heard from this government,” Schulz said.
She added though encouraged by the announcement, she would like to see former services return, before the province expands.
“In the Old Strathcona area there is a need, but its not as great as it is downtown, and it will also take a lot of time to set up services there,” Shulz said. “The need is right now.”
READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic having ‘stark effects’ on opioid-related deaths in Alberta
Those on the front lines of the opioid epidemic said Edmonton is in a serious situation in relation to the opioid crisis.
“We had a Wednesday two weeks ago in which we were aware of 17 overdoses that happened overnight in the city,” Elliott Tanti with Boyle Street Community Services said. “We’ve had upwards of 11 at our building in one day.”
Tanti said agreed that services need to be more spread out.
“Overdoses aren’t just happening downtown, they are happening everywhere,” he said.
The province hasn’t announced a specific location for the new site, but business owner, Greg Doucet, welcomes the help, cautiously.
“I’m sure it will be good for some businesses, not good for others,” Doucet, the owner of Mill Creek Cafe, said. “It’s just the way any kind of change is not going to be good for everybody but will benefit some hopefully.”
READ MORE: Calgary’s supervised consumption site at Sheldon Chumir centre to close, services being relocated
The province has also launched a mobile app designed to help Albertans
The DORSApp.ca can be downloaded to any smart phone. When using the app, a timer is set and if someone becomes unresponsive after the timer, a call from the STARS emergency centre is made. If an overdose is suspected STARS dispatches medical personnel.
“More than 70 per cent of opioid-related fatalities happen at home,” Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said. “The Digital Overdose Response System will help prevent fatalities for people who are using opioids at home.”