It’s been six months since two supervised consumption sites opened in Edmonton and demand for the services has been overwhelming. The site at the George Spady Centre has even been forced to turn people away due to staffing constraints.
Overall, 208 overdoses have been reversed and countless more have been prevented, according to those who operate the services. Between March 23 and Sept. 2, 14,997 people visited the sites.
At Boyle Street Community Services, staff are seeing an average of 57 visits per day. The George Spady Centre is seeing an average of 61 visits per day.
“We do have a large focus, just because of the population that we work with, on people who are homeless and the most marginalized,” said Erica Schoen, director of supervised consumption services.
“A lot of the heroin that people believe they’re using actually contains fentanyl.”
However, Schoen said it’s not just those living on the street who are making use of the services.
“We do have some people who may use our service and then go to work for the day. That has happened.”
The George Spady site was originally supposed to be open all night. However, the three booths at that location have reduced hours, only staying open until midnight.
Those running the two consumption sites in Edmonton say the third site at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre is desperately needed. The site is still under construction and is set to open in the coming months.
Petra Schulz lost her son to a fentanyl overdose in 2014. She says the supervised consumption sites are working, but admits more locations are needed.
“People don’t stop using. If they are starting to feel withdrawal symptoms, or as people say dope-sick, they need to have access to their drugs. And then if the consumption site isn’t open, they will use anywhere.”
Consumption site staff say they continue to review the peak hours and 24-hour service may be offered again. Patients at the Royal Alexandra Hospital also have access to a supervised site in the hospital.