Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jan 2018
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network
Author: Yolande Cole
Page: A6


Permanent facility replaces stop-gap trailer at Chumir Health

A permanent supervised drug consumption site will open its doors in
the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre on Monday, replacing a temporary
facility that handled 2,551 visits by more than 300 people in two months.

Claire O'Gorman, program coordinator with Safeworks, said 55 overdoses
were reversed between Oct. 30 and Dec. 31 at the trailer outside the
health centre.

"There's 55 lives saved already," she said during a tour of the
facility Friday. "We're making a difference here in our community."

The newly constructed site, accessible by a separate entrance on 13th
Avenue, incorporates a reception area, a consumption room with six
booths and two nurse stations, and a post-consumption room.

O'Gorman said the goal of the site is to reduce deaths from the opioid
crisis and mitigate other health risks associated with drug use.

The aim is also to de-stigmatize substance use and ensure that people
who use drugs know the service is there for them.

The facility provides low-barrier access, not requiring users to show
identification or health care cards.

"It communicates that we care and we want to provide ethical,
compassionate care to all of our clients, and I think that it's part
of that continuum of services," she said.

"It's not going to be the silver bullet, but it's a really important
piece in beginning to address the opioid crisis, as well as all of the
other challenges that come with substance use."

Services also include a social worker who can work with clients on
other needs, such as food security and housing, and clients can be
referred to the opioid dependency program in the Sheldon Chumir or to
detox services.

Without the supervised consumption services, the clients in the 55
overdose cases at the temporary site would likely have been using
substances in public or in unsupervised spaces such as alleyways or
bathrooms, said O'Gorman.

"For a lot of our clients, they're experiencing multiple forms of
vulnerability, so homelessness or poverty," she said. "It's really
important that we're able to respond for especially those folks who
don't have other places to go."

 From Oct. 30 to Dec. 31, 11 clients were referred to the opioid
dependency program and 45 were referred to social work for support and
connections to other services, according to Alberta Health Services.
The facility has also been distributing more than 100 naloxone kits a
month. It is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

Associate minister of health Brandy Payne said the temporary Calgary
facility experienced great success.

"Having the permanent site being open - I think it's going to show to
individuals who are using substances that we care about the future and
we want them to have the wrap-around services that they need, and to
be as safe as they can," Payne told reporters.

Four supervised consumption sites are scheduled to open in Edmonton
over the next year, in addition to a site in Lethbridge.

In the first nine months of 2017, there were 482 opioid-related deaths
in Alberta. In 2016, 363 people died of apparent fentanyl-related
overdoses in the province.
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