The Alberta government announced Friday that it will be funding new initiatives to help address issues that have arisen regarding the opioid crisis and substance use in the city.
“Lethbridge is facing a very serious opioid crisis. It’s one of the worst in Canada,” MLA Shannon Phillips said. “In southern Alberta, we’ve seen really specific effects of it, not just in terms of overdose deaths but also in homelessness and other issues in the downtown.”
The provincial government will be putting $12.6 million towards building a permanent supportive housing complex to help with homelessness and address complex issues, including substance use.
The money will also create new intox spaces in the city to provide a space for people to sober up and will include access to services like housing programs and health care.
“Opening up only the supervised consumption site created additional problems,” Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said. “It highlighted the fact that we lacked these services.”
However, officials are not saying exactly where the facilities will be located.
“These are very controlled facilities; they are up and running in other areas,” Spearman said. “There’s virtually no issues in neighbourhoods where they’ve been located so I think we have to look at it positively and not create issues before they happen.”
The new initiatives are expected to start rolling out over the next year.
“It takes time to build a supportive housing facility, that will come beginning in 2019,” Phillips said. “The intox services, we just need to work out some of the details on delivery mechanisms but that, again, will be in 2019.”
The province also said it will be expanding physician services for opioid treatment, including providing access to a virtual opioid dependency program that connects patients to specific treatment physicians located in other parts of the province.