Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health has said that “These sites will save the lives of Albertans at risk of dying from a drug overdose. They also provide people using drugs with crucial wraparound services, including connecting them with treatment for substance use when they’re ready. We are pleased with the decision by Health Canada and thankful for the hard work by health care leaders and community groups to bring these services to the Albertans who need them.”
Health Canada has approved applications by the Edmonton-based community coalition AMSISE (Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton) to offer supervised consumption services at three community facilities. In addition, Alberta Health Services has received approval to offer supervised consumption services to in-patients at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, making it the first acute care hospital in North America to provide these services.
The Lethbridge-based community organization ARCHES has also been granted approval to provide supervised consumption services at a location in the city’s downtown.
Alberta Health Services has also applied to offer supervised consumption services at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre in Calgary. Approval from Health Canada for this site is anticipated by the end of October.
Evidence shows supervised consumption services save lives, reduce transmission of infections by providing sterile needles and equipment, and build safer communities by supporting people who use drugs in accessing services and reducing public substance use and discarded needles.
Providing supervised consumption services is part of the province’s urgent work to address the opioid crisis. So far this year, 315 Albertans have died of apparent fentanyl-related overdoses. The government’s actions include a substantial expansion in access to treatment, so more than 3,000 new patients in communities across the province can receive treatment annually.
AMSISE consulted widely with the community about plans to incorporate supervised consumption services at the three approved sites of Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Community Services and the George Spady Centre. AMSISE held six open houses, knocked on 850 doors in surrounding neighbourhoods and met with community leagues, law enforcement, business associations and substance users. A survey of 1,869 Edmontonians found that 81 per cent of people agreed with the proposed model to integrate supervised consumption services into the inner-city agencies.
The Edmonton community-based sites approved for supervised consumption services are expected to open in late 2017 or early 2018, with ARCHES’ Lethbridge location expected to open in early 2018. The anticipated opening date for supervised consumption services at the Royal Alexandra Hospital is spring 2018.