This release was issued under a previous government.

New opioid clinics in northern Alberta

Dr. Ogunsina, psychiatrist at the Fort McMurray opioid dependency treatment clinic, shows Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman how the clinic’s Telehealth connects remote patients to care. Chelsea LaCombe, a public health nurse is also assisting with this demonstration.

Fort McMurray, High Prairie and Bonnyville are home to new opioid dependency treatment clinics. The three clinics can treat up to 600 new patients annually, with medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone and Suboxone. Patients also receive mental health services and other wrap-around supports.  

“The opioid crisis is affecting communities across the province and we want to ensure that treatment is available, no matter where you live. Making sure families in northern Alberta have the supports they need for loved ones struggling with substance use is critical. By opening new treatment clinics in more rural or remote settings, hundreds more Albertans can receive treatment and counselling and move toward recovery and stability.”

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

“I lost my only child, Todd, to an accidental overdose two years ago. It was cocaine laced with fentanyl. I’m a strong supporter of the Fort McMurray Recovery Centre and take great comfort in seeing the services there expand to help more people. My son wanted to save others. It is too late for Todd but not for those who are struggling.”

Mari-Lee Paluszak, parent advocate, Moms Stop The Harm

The clinics will be staffed by registered nurses and substance use counsellors. Two local doctors work out of the Fort McMurray clinic, and can link through telehealth for extra support in Edmonton. Patients in the High Prairie and Bonnyville areas can receive care from physicians in Calgary or Edmonton through a telehealth line in the local clinics.

“Suboxone or methadone is the proven treatment in helping patients recover from substance use disorder, as it reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This expansion in the number of patients who can access opioid dependency treatment in the Fort McMurray area is a significant improvement in the quality of services provided for their support and recovery. Treatment is more readily available, it is saving lives and more residents are getting the help they need and living productive lives again.”

Dr. Olurotimi Ogunsina, psychiatrist and treating physician at the Fort McMurray opioid dependency clinic

“Opioid dependency is a growing issue in our province and AHS is working to increase access to treatment and other supports, including counselling. Expanding treatment to new patients in Fort McMurray and adding two new clinics in High Prairie and Bonnyville is an important part of that response.”

Dr. Sandra Corbett, interim zone medical director, North Zone, Alberta Health Services

Last year, 80 people in Alberta Health Services’ North Zone died of an apparent opioid overdose. In the first three months of 2018, another eight people died of a suspected fentanyl poisoning in the North Zone.  

Quick facts

  • The three new opioid dependency clinics will operate with an annual $1-million budget.
  • The new treatment clinic at the Fort McMurray Recovery Centre is currently serving 43 patients, with a capacity to treat 300 people annually. New patients are being added weekly.
  • The new treatment clinic in High Prairie opened earlier this month. Through telehealth, this clinic can serve up to 150 patients each year from High Prairie and surrounding communities.
  • The new clinic in Bonnyville is scheduled to open later this month. Using telehealth, this clinic can also serve up to 150 patients from Bonnyville and surrounding communities each year.
  • The three new clinics are in addition to an AHS opioid dependency treatment clinic that opened in Grande Prairie last year. The Grande Prairie clinic is currently serving 65 patients.