Giving drinks to alcoholics, a look inside the Calgary program

Staff at a charity that runs a program treating chronic Calgary alcoholics with controlled access to hard liquor and beer says it's working.

Trinity Place Foundation offers people over 55 with mental health and addiction problems a safe space — away from daily trips to emergency rooms and run-ins with police — at its Peter Coyle Place facility.

Of the 70 residents, 10 chronic alcoholics are in the program, focused on harm reduction rather than trying to beat their addiction.

"We have the alcohol stored in the main office of the building and we dispense it from there. They really do care for one another and they do find a community that's supportive," said Ian Trilui, a social worker.

'It works really well'

Managed alcohol programs reduce spending on health care and emergency services and reduce alcohol consumption, said Trinity Place CEO Lawrence Braul.

"People who self-medicate will simply consume far more medical resources unless they're provided a supportive housing environment where there can be a managed approach to some of these addictive behaviours, and it works really well."

It's controversial, but Braul says it's a viable alternative that's saving lives in Alberta.

"We're able to engage these people and assist them in stabilizing their lives and improving the quality of their life."

Trilui says they've had nothing but positive feedback from local businesses and members of the community and the centre is helping to break down stereotypes about addictions.

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