Alberta government announces $4M for Calgary Drop-In Centre’s overdose response team

The Alberta government is providing $4 million in funding to the Calgary Drop-In Centre to establish more pre-treatment beds and a “dynamic overdose response team” for those struggling with addiction.

The funding aims to establish 15 medical detox and 20 pre-treatment beds to support up to 1,000 Calgarians every year, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Nicholas Milliken told reporters Tuesday. These spaces and services will be free for Albertans, he added.

The funding will also help establish a dynamic overdose response team, which aims to “keep communities safe” while treating addiction as a health-care issue.

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Local paramedics, first responders and community organizations will be part of this team and will help respond to overdoses at the Drop-In Centre and in the community.

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“For many people struggling with addiction, getting into a detox program is one of the first and often the most important steps,” Milliken said at Tuesday’s news conference.

“It is thanks to the collaborative efforts and efforts of countless partners across the province that we are able to continue building out or recover-oriented system of care.”

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The funding comes after data from province’s substance use surveillance system shows opioid-related overdoses are still at record highs compared to pre-pandemic years.

Alberta reported 120 people died from drug poisoning in November last year, compared to 43 during the same time period in 2019.

The province also reported 168 deaths in February 2022, compared to 52 in February 2019.

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“The ability to offer detox transition beds and dynamic overdose response at the (Drop-In Centre) will be one more piece in creating pathways out of homelessness and into recovery and housing,” said Sandra Clarkson, executive director at the Drop-In Centre.

“We know there’s a lot more work to do as we continue to see that mental health and addictions create further barriers to ending a person’s experience of homelessness. These programs will be an important piece in removing those barriers so more vulnerable Calgarians can move into recovery and ultimately housing.”

But Milliken did not provide concrete details about re-opening supervised consumption sites in Calgary.

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The provincial government announced the relocation and closure of the Safeworks site inside the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre and another site in the Beltline in 2021. At the time, the government said it will be opening overdose prevention sites instead at two other locations in the city.

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The United Conservative government said in September last year it has been working closely with Drop-In Centre staff to establish a small-scale overdose prevention service at the shelter.

However, those plans were cancelled after speaking with the community of East Village, surrounding communities and stakeholders.

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Alpha House announced it will pause its plans for an overdose prevention site shortly after.

“I want to make sure that those services are available in full,” Milliken said.

“Our government believes that every single Albertan who is in the throes of addiction should have the opportunity to pursue recovery.”

–with files from Jessika Guse, Global News.

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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