Pubdate: Fri, 02 Mar 2018
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte
Page: A4


A new clinic giving access to a drug similar to prescription heroin is
likely heading to Edmonton's inner city.

Alberta Health is planning two clinics as a pilot project, one each in
Edmonton and Calgary. Treatment would require opioid addicts to visit
the clinic several times each day to inject drugs supplied by the clinic.

It means users no longer need to buy drugs on the black market, and
studies at Vancouver's Crosstown Clinic found patients in the program
cut back their use of illicit drugs from at least 14 times a month to
less than four.

"It's really a solution to public disorder," said Dr. Scott MacDonald,
a physician at the Crosstown Clinic, which has been running a similar
program since 2014.

It now has 150 chronic drug users receiving drugs at the clinic, with
a more than 80 per cent retention rate, he said Thursday. Roughly 20
per cent have been able to graduate to less-intensive treatment
options such as methadone pills after they stabilize.

Taking a pill instead allows them to move away from the neighbourhood
around the clinic, or even go back to work.

Edmonton's clinic is meant to serve 50 patients.

The new treatment option will likely be made available in Boyle
McCauley and Central McDougall, the same neighbourhoods that fought
against four planned supervised consumption sites, said Dr. Kristin
Klein, Alberta deputy medical officer of health. There, users bring
their own drugs and a nurse monitors them for overdoses. The first
supervised consumption site will open in mid-March.

The newly proposed clinic will serve the same population, but offer
treatment, said Klein.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman approved the funding. Details of the
injection treatment clinic operations are being worked out, with a
target opening date of late 2018.

Many downtown residents have argued for years that the concentration
of services for the homeless is damaging their neighbourhoods.

Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen has been advocating for prescription opioid
treatment, but in a residential setting. Much like Ambrose Place helps
those coming off the street manage their drinking, this could give
chronic addicts access to what their bodies crave in residential
facilities spread throughout the city, he said.

MacDonald said injection drugs are the second treatment option if
pills such as methadone don't work.

The legal injectable drug hydromorphone costs $25,000 per year per
patient. That's less than the cost of drug-associated emergency room
visits and crime, MacDonald said.
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