With $2.1 million from the government over three years, Edmonton’s George Spady Society now has 35 medical detox beds.

Another $1.5 million from the provincial government is supporting a pilot project to provide Albertans in the Edmonton area with publicly funded nasal naloxone kits. The project is being led by the George Spady Society, in collaboration with Alberta Health Services, Edmonton Police Services and other community partners.

“We are committed to ensuring all Albertans have access to a range of services in their journey out of addiction – from prevention to intervention, treatment and recovery. This includes services to reduce harm, including free access to both nasal and injectable naloxone to save lives as well as medical detox, which can be an important step to achieving life-long recovery.”

Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

Starting June 15, the George Spady Society will begin distributing nasal naloxone kits to individuals at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose. More nasal naloxone distribution sites will be added throughout the pilot in collaboration with Edmonton community partners.

Nasal naloxone is easier to administer and there’s no risk of needle stick injury or needle debris. One bottle of nasal naloxone spray is approximately the same as five naloxone vials, making it more effective. It also allows professionals who are not legally permitted to do injections to administer this important life saving drug.

“This shift in our services gives us greater opportunity to support Albertans in achieving recovery. We are continuing to work with our community partners to support a full range of services in Edmonton.”

Lorette Garrick, chief executive officer, George Spady Society

The nasal naloxone pilot project will gather data related to user preferences and value-added benefits of nasal versus injectable naloxone.

“The Edmonton Police Service is looking forward to participating in the nasal naloxone pilot program for those suffering from addiction. I’m eager to see the results of this initiative and how it will help prevent overdoses. We all need to work together to address the challenges faced by those with addictions in our city.”

Dale McFee, chief of police, Edmonton Police Service

The nasal naloxone pilot project complements the existing provincial naloxone program, which provides injectable naloxone across Alberta to individuals at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose. Naloxone is not a substitute for emergency medical support. Always call 911 when administering naloxone, whether nasally or via injection.

Both the nasal naloxone and medical detox projects are part of the Alberta government’s action plan to build a recovery-oriented systems of care that provides easy access to a range of addiction and mental health services from services to reduce harm to treatment services and recovery supports. Key actions taken to date include:

  • Investing in a new overdose prevention app that helps protect people using opioids and other substances while alone. The new mobile app, called Digital Overdose Response System or DORS, links people to emergency help. Testing begins in Calgary later this month and will expand into Edmonton this fall.
  • Expanding access to opioid agonist therapy so that people with opioid use disorder can access treatment virtually from wherever they are through telehealth technology that links them to medical support and at opioid dependency clinics, where they can access more counselling and psychosocial supports.
  • Eliminating daily user fees for addiction treatment so all Albertans can access publicly funded addiction treatment beds for free.
  • Providing more than 4,000 additional publicly funded treatment spaces across the province, including:
    • 900 spaces over three years at Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres near Edmonton
    • 294 spaces over three years at Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary
    • 1,722 spaces over three years, including medical detox spaces, at Thorpe Recovery Centre near Lloydminster
    • 156 spaces over three years at Sunrise Healing Lodge in Calgary
  • Building recovery communities with 400 new treatment beds to provide holistic addiction and mental health treatment.

Quick facts

  • From Jan. 1, 2016 to March 31, 2021, more than 350,000 injectable naloxone kits were dispensed through the Alberta Health Services naloxone program and nearly 26,000 overdose reversals were self-reported.
  • The new medical detox services at the George Spady Centre began operating in August 2020 and will be funded at $800,000 per year until March 2023.
  • This will enable about 4,550 Albertans to receive support from the George Spady Centre.
  • The George Spady Centre has also expanded its supervised consumption services by increasing the number of booths and extending their hours of operation to 24-7.
  • Alberta’s government is investing:
    • $140 million over four years to enhance the mental health and addiction care system and create more publicly funded treatment spaces. This funding includes $40 million specifically to support the opioid response.
    • More than $53 million to implement more online, phone and in-person mental health and addiction recovery supports to make it easier for Albertans to access services from anywhere in Alberta during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • For anyone using opioids, naloxone kits are available free of charge at pharmacies across the province. Call 911 in an emergency.
  • The Addiction Helpline, a 24-7 confidential toll-free service, at 1-866-332-2322, can provide support, information and referral to services. Treatment can also start right away by calling the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) seven days per week at 1-844-383-7688.