Calgary's first permanent, supervised consumption site is set to open downtown on Monday, offering "welcoming, warm, inclusive services" for people in the community.
Located at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre, the facility will be a place for people to pick up harm reduction supplies, such as new needles, and inject, swallow, or snort their drugs in one of six designated booths under the supervision of a registered nurse trained in overdose response.
It's the latest action from the province in the battle against the opioid crisis, which claimed 482 lives through accidental overdoses in the first three quarters of 2017, according to the government's latest numbers.
"The goal is to reduce the deaths from the opioid crisis as well as mitigate some of the other health risks associated with drug use," said program co-ordinator Clare O'Gorman.
A temporary safe consumption site that had been operating out of a trailer at the Chumir centre since November will be decommissioned on Monday.
Associate health minister Brandy Payne said the province is considering reusing the trailer to provide these services in another part of the city.
What is available on site
People who enter the clinic off of 13th Avenue S.W. will not have to show any identification or their health care card in order to use one of the six booths in the consumption area.
"We really want to be welcoming, low barrier ... and a place where people don't feel that they're being judged for their substance use. We're here to support them in their journey, no matter what that looks like," O'Gorman said.
One major benefit of the permanent location is the extra space, which will allow for more in-house, wraparound services and support staff, she added.
A separate post-consumption room will be available to clients who wish to speak with a registered dietitian or addictions counsellor.
A social worker will also be on-site to help incoming clients connect with housing, food security and poverty resources in the community, or refer people to detox services.
"We have a few clients that are already on opioid replacement therapy through the [opioid dependency program] clinic here," said O'Gorman.
The new setup is similar to the temporary trailer that has been operating at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre since November.
Since opening in November, the temporary site has seen more than 2,500 visits from more than 300 individual clients, O'Gorman said.
"What that tells me is that people are coming back, which says that we're offering welcoming, warm, inclusive services to our clients, and services they want to access," O'Gorman said.
In that time, the clinic has also prevented 55 overdoses.
Edmonton sites coming as early as spring, says government
Payne says four Edmonton locations have been approved by Health Canada, with the first to open later this spring.
Three will be open to the general public. The fourth, to be located at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, will be available only to in-patients, making it the first of its kind in North America, Payne said.
Another site has been approved for Lethbridge.
"As long as Albertans are dying of preventable overdoses, we're going to have more work to do, and we're going to keep working to address the opioid crisis," Payne said.
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