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Provincial support improves opioid treatment

Central Albertans struggling with opioid dependency are receiving better, faster treatment with new medical supports for 20 detox beds in Red Deer. 

Safe Harbour Society opened the upgraded beds in November, and since then 127 people have received treatment for substance use and wraparound services including counselling, housing and social supports.

“Making sure people struggling with opioid dependency get treatment when they reach out for help is key to preventing more lives from being lost to the opioid crisis. Medication-assisted treatment is described as a game changer from people receiving that support. These enhanced beds in Red Deer will help people in central Alberta with opioid dependency get the medical care they need closer to home.”

Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health

The Alberta government funded Safe Harbour Society with a $1.6-million grant to add new medical treatment supports to its detox beds, providing clients with 24-7 access to a team of doctors and nurses. Seven local physicians provide medication-assisted treatment such as methadone or Suboxone for opioid-use disorder and work closely with on-site case managers to transfer clients to ongoing community care when they’re ready.

Once discharged, patients can receive ongoing treatment through the central Alberta rural telehealth opioid dependency program, opened by the province last spring. This program can treat up to 300 patients annually from Red Deer and surrounding communities.

“This initiative combines medical and community care which truly helps the people we serve at Safe Harbour. The in-house medical supports mean families know their loved ones are in good hands when they drop them off. And the community benefits from better patient flow at the hospital, as staff can discharge patients earlier knowing their ongoing medical care can now be met at Safe Harbour.”

Kath Hoffman, executive director, Safe Harbour Society

“This life-saving program helps save mothers, sons, daughters, cousins, fathers and friends. The reality is that addiction is a medical and social issue, and those who struggle with substance-use issues are part of our communities and families. As a physician supporting this program, my goal is to help those who need this detox care receive it in a place that brings together the health-care system and community supports to care for the whole person, and to get them the help they need.”

Dr. Michael Mulholland, physician lead of medically supported detox, Safe Harbour, family medicine clinical section chief for Red Deer Metro, Alberta Health Services Central Zone

Safe Harbour will be able to help people recover faster with the enhanced beds and access to medication-assisted treatment, over and above the 400 patients it currently helps each year. Five of the 20 beds are extended-stay beds, allowing patients to receive care on site until a space in residential treatment is ready, or until housing is secured.

“This medically supported detox marks the removal of a huge barrier. Having access to drug replacement therapy and medical services, including relief from withdrawal symptoms, in such a welcoming environment could make all the difference to someone struggling to recover.”

Client with lived experience of the benefits of such a program

The new medical detox beds are part of Alberta’s ongoing work to increase access to opioid treatment across the province. New opioid clinics and expanded treatment programs in Grande Prairie, central Alberta, Fort McMurray, Cardston, Sherwood Park, Edmonton and Calgary will help up to 3,500 new patients each year.


Media inquiries

Government of Alberta