Pubdate: Fri, 28 Oct 2016
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network
Authors: Keith Gerein and Michael Lumsden
Page: A1


The Alberta government says it will begin providing funding to several
community agencies working to establish safe drug consumption sites.

The money will be used to "explore the need" for the controversial
facilities, which have been touted as an effective harm-reduction
strategy for people who use illegal narcotics.

Alberta health leaders have grown particularly concerned by a rise in
the use of powerful opioid drugs, such as fentanyl, which has led to
hundreds of deaths in the province.

"It's critical that we are addressing the fentanyl and opioid crisis
from a health perspective and harm reduction is a major part of that,"
associate health minister Brandy Payne said Thursday in Edmonton.

The funding includes a $230,000 grant to Access to Medically
Supervised Injection Services Edmonton, which will use the money in
part to push ahead efforts to initiate an application to the federal

A separate $500,000 grant will help assess the need for supervised
drug consumption sites in other communities, including Calgary, that
already operate needle exchange programs.

In Calgary, the mobile service Safeworks exchanges

A consortium of organizations, however, do a lot of the administration

Leslie Hill, executive director of HIV Community Link, said they
remain determined to try to create plans which can help the most people.

"In Calgary, the momentum has picked up for the last little while
because of the overdose crisis," she added. "This will help us do a
needs assessment, and what geographic portions of the cities are in
need." Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said the science on the program's
effectiveness is pretty clear, adding he's glad it has come down to a
where and when, rather than a "yes and no" debate.

"It's good to get funding to support an existing operation that does
social good, and, apparently, hasn't had any negative overspill," he

Shelley Williams, Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services
Edmonton, said they are appreciative of the support from Alberta
Health to take the next step in their planning. "Our coalition of
organizations and individuals recognize the need and value in adding
supervised consumption services in Edmonton," Williams said.

"This is an evidence-based practice adding to the spectrum of
prevention, harm reduction and treatment services."

Safe drug consumption or injection sites are controversial, with some
critics suggesting they put the government in the position of allowing
criminal activity, and creating a blight on communities where they are

The move is one of several new tools the government announced Thursday
to battle the province's opioid crisis. Other new measures include:
Improving the collection and publishing of data to better target

Expanding access to opioid replacement therapy;

Improving prescription drug monitoring and implementing new tools to
prevent prescription drug misuse.

Currently, there are 65 physicians licensed to provide methadone and
about 160 licensed to provide suboxone for people with opioid dependency.

Recent statistics show there were 47 fentanyl-related deaths during
the third quarter of 2016, bringing the year's total to 193.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt