Red Deer gets 20 new detox beds in response to opioid crisis

WATCH: The Alberta government is expanding detox services in Red Deer to deal with the growing opioid crisis. Tony Tighe has the details.

The Alberta government has funded 20 new detox beds in Red Deer to help central Albertans struggling with an addiction to opioids.

Safe Harbour Society received a $1.6-million grant from the province. The money is meant to give clients around-the-clock access to a team of doctors and nurses.

Since the beds opened in November, 127 people have received treatment for substance use as well as on-going help in the community for things like counselling and housing.

“Making sure people struggling with opioid dependency get treatment when they reach out for help is key to preventing more lives from being lost to the opioid crisis,”  Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne said. “Medication-assisted treatment is described as a game-changer from people receiving that support.”

One patient at the detox centre described how close he came to dying of an opioid overdose. “I woke up in the hospital, freezing with hypothermia,” Cameron Stanyer said. “I was scared. I didn’t want to die.”

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Stanyer credits the program for helping him get clean. “If it wasn’t for Safe Harbour, a lot of us would be no more.”

Treatment such as methadone or Suboxone will be provided by seven local physicians, like Dr. Michael Mulholland.

“This live-saving program helps save mothers, sons, daughters, cousins, fathers and friends,” the lead physician of medically supported detox said. “The reality is that addiction is a medical and social issue, and those who struggle with substance-use issues are part of our communities and families.”

WATCH: New numbers released Monday show the severity of Alberta’s growing opioid crisis. As Quinn Ohler reports, the deaths are up 40 per cent from last year.

Nearly 2 people die every day in Alberta from opioid overdose
Nearly 2 people die every day in Alberta from opioid overdose

Five of the 20 beds are extended-stay beds, allowing patients to receive care at Safe Harbour until they can get a spot in a residential treatment centre, or housing is lined up.

“The in-house medical supports mean families know their loved ones are in good hands when they drop them off,” Safe Harbour Society executive director Kath Hoffman said.

The beds will allow people in central Alberta to get the care they need closer to home and are expected to help free up beds in other centres like Calgary and Edmonton.

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With files from Tony Tighe