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Calgary supervised consumption site approved

Health Canada has approved life-saving supervised consumption services at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre for people who use substances.

With a temporary site expected to open soon, Calgary will become the first city in Alberta to begin offering supervised consumption services. Five other sites approved for Alberta last week - four in Edmonton and one in Lethbridge - are anticipated to open in late 2017 or early 2018.

“The opioid crisis has had a devastating impact on families and communities in Calgary. By bringing supervised consumption services to this busy health facility in the Beltline neighbourhood, we are working to save lives and to help connect people who use substances with vital wraparound health and social supports. I’m grateful for the hard work of Alberta Health Services and community groups working to establish these life-saving public health services in facilities around the province. I thank Health Canada for working with us on targeted, comprehensive actions to address opioids.”

Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health

Health Canada approved the AHS plan to offer supervised consumption services in a temporary, modular facility in the surface parking area at Chumir. This interim solution will help deliver services sooner, while construction of a permanent service area within the health centre is underway. Permanent supervised consumption services within the Chumir health centre are anticipated to open in early 2018. These services will complement the array of supports and services already offered at Chumir’s Opioid Dependency Program, where people have access to treatment, including Suboxone, methadone and counselling.

“This is great news. We feel this site will have a positive impact on the community. It will save lives and provide those with substance-use disorders an access point to further treatment. It is a long overdue step in the right direction. However, this is only one small step and momentum can't end here.”

Jessica Holtsbaum, Changing the Face of Addiction

Evidence shows that supervised consumption services save lives, reduce transmission of infections by providing sterile needles and equipment and build safer communities by reducing public substance use and discarded needles.

“This is a significant step in our coordinated effort to end the opioid crisis facing our community. We know that supervised consumption services save lives—they are an important part of our coordinated and integrated approach that balances harm reduction, treatment, prevention and enforcement. Together, we will keep Calgarians safe while reducing deaths and helping people struggling with addiction to chart a path to a better life.”

Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary

“Addictions do not discriminate – they affect people from all walks of life in all communities in our city. It is important we provide an avenue to support our vulnerable populations to get them the treatment they need to find their way out of addiction. This is the first step of many to find collective solutions to the complex problems of drug-related crime in our city.”

Bob Ritchie, acting chief, Calgary Police Service

Alberta Health Services, in consultation with the City of Calgary, Calgary Police Service and the community-led Calgary Coalition on Supervised Consumption, submitted an application to Health Canada in May 2017 to integrate supervised consumption services at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre. AHS held 11 engagement sessions with more than 120 members of the community to learn more about their concerns and to incorporate their feedback into the plan to implement these services. AHS will continue to engage and communicate with staff and the community as supervised consumption services are implemented.

“The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association is pleased to hear that the supervised consumption site at the Chumir has been approved. We recognize opioid addictions pose a growing public health threat citywide and we support the province's efforts to help save lives and connect users with wraparound health and social supports downtown and in the Beltline. As the first community in Alberta to start offering these services, we intend for the Beltline to serve as a model for how this can be done right. We believe that it will be in the best interest of the victims of addiction and the adjacent community that the modular facility serve only as a brief interim solution while the Chumir construction takes place. To that end, we'll be closely following developments to ensure community safety is a priority and that construction at the Chumir is expedited.”

Peter Oliver, president, Beltline Neighbourhoods Association

“This is an important day for us as we are one step closer to providing these much-needed services to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Supervised consumption services will help save lives and will provide opportunities for Albertans struggling with substance use to access additional supports in the community.”

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO, Alberta Health Services

The province is providing $2.2 million for startup costs and necessary renovations to the temporary and permanent locations at the Chumir health centre. The province has also accepted the recommendation from the Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission to provide operational funding for the six supervised consumption sites now approved for Alberta.

Providing supervised consumption services in Alberta is part of the province’s urgent work to address the opioid crisis. As of mid-August 2017, 315 people in Alberta 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.

The Calgary Coalition on Supervised Consumption has completed a needs assessment to identify additional opportunities for supervised consumption services in Calgary. Needs assessments have also been done by community coalitions in Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Edson. The Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission is scheduled to review and discuss the assessments in November.


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