Taking action on opioids crisis in Lethbridge
Increasing urgently needed supports for housing and addiction services will help address the opioid crisis and substance use issues in Lethbridge.
A new permanent supportive housing complex for Lethbridge will support adults experiencing homelessness who have complex issues such as substance use. The $11-million project will provide safe accommodations for 42 people.
In addition, the Alberta government is investing $1.6 million to create up to 30 new intox spaces in the city. These spaces will provide a safe place for people to stay while they sober up, and will include access to services like housing programs and health care, reducing disruption to neighbourhoods and businesses.
“The opioid crisis is having an urgent and severe impact on families in Lethbridge and southern Alberta. We will continue to help Albertans receive greater access to health services for substance use by applying the latest medical evidence and the expert advice of the dedicated first responders serving our communities.”
“Providing people affected by substance use a safe, welcoming place to live is a crucial step on their path to recovery. This new permanent supportive housing development for Lethbridge and the wrap-around supports it will offer is key in our government’s work to address the root causes of poverty and to support vulnerable Albertans on their path to security.”
“Our government is committed to helping people with complex needs break the cycle of homelessness. This project will ensure people can live in dignity and get the support they need for mental and physical challenges, addictions and other issues. We will continue to work closely with the City of Lethbridge.”
In the first six months of 2018, 17 people in Lethbridge died of an apparent opioid overdose. Since opening, the supervised consumption services site in Lethbridge, operated by ARCHES, has seen more than 71,000 client visits - one of the highest numbers in Canada. As of Sept. 30, over 620 overdoses have been reversed by staff at ARCHES.
“Thank you to the Government of Alberta, our partner, for listening to Lethbridge’s concerns and for providing funding in areas that are beyond municipal responsibility. We can finally place greater focus on treatment and recovery and do what is needed to fight back against this drug crisis.”
The government is also expanding an option for people to receive opioid agonist therapy (OAT), such as methadone and Suboxone, in Lethbridge and other areas. The Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) connects patients wanting to start OAT with prescribers in other parts of the province through videoconferencing. OAT treatments can help people who use opioids stabilize their lives.
“In addition to ongoing enforcement efforts, this investment in harm reduction, treatment and permanent housing opportunities is a welcome step to help break the cycle of addiction and reduce the impacts of the drug crisis.”
“As first responders, we have seen first-hand the impact this drug crisis has had on our residents and their families. This crisis has also, at times, stretched our resources and abilities to the maximum. We strongly support all initiatives that can ultimately help to resolve these issues and reduce some of the pressures that have been placed on our first responders.”
Alberta Health also announced a new safe withdrawal management site on the Blood Tribe reserve that will provide addiction treatment services. This model of care will see Blood Tribe paramedics give patients who have overdosed the option of going to the safe withdrawal management site to receive health assessment and intervention and connect them to local resources and programs.
- The actions announced today build on the Government of Alberta’s action plan to better combat opioid use in the city. The plan includes:
- providing an additional $2.6 million to add new booths to meet the demand for supervised consumption services
- new funding of $160,000 to increase needle collection, including new needle disposal boxes and increasing the reach of the clean sweep program to pick up discarded needles
- providing $1.9 million to support eight new medical detox beds at the Chinook Regional Hospital
- funding new community-based public awareness projects, including $100,000 to Alberta Addicts Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly for community workshops and performances involving individuals with lived experience
- In Budget 2018, the government committed $63 million to continue its work on the opioid crisis, including opening new opioid dependency treatment spaces across the province which help an additional 4,000 Albertans every year. The funding has also supported the distribution of more than 113,000 free naloxone kits, with more than 6,500 voluntarily reported overdose reversals.
*Editor's note: This email contains an updated version of the news release.