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Alberta announces $10M for addiction recovery communities in Lethbridge County, Blood Tribe First Nation

Click to play video 'Province announces $10M for 2 new addiction recovery communities in southern Alberta' Province announces $10M for 2 new addiction recovery communities in southern Alberta
WATCH ABOVE: On Saturday, Premier Jason Kenney announced $5 million will each go to Lethbridge County and the Blood Tribe First Nation for the construction of new drug treatment facilities. As Eloise Therien explains, the move is part of a larger initiative to increase availability of addiction and mental health supports across the province.

The government of Alberta is investing $25 million toward the construction of five addiction recovery communities throughout the province, which aim to treat those dealing with drug addictions and mental health concerns.

It is part of a $10-billion infrastructure investment in Alberta’s Recovery Plan, which is also funding projects such as the expansion of Highway 3 and Lethbridge’s Exhibition Park.

Last week, Red Deer was announced as the first location to receive $5 million of that funding, and on Saturday, two more locations were chosen.

Lethbridge County and the Blood Tribe First Nation will each receive $5 million to construct their own recovery communities, which are slated to open in the first half of 2021.

Read more: University of Lethbridge appoints 1st ever Indigenous chancellor

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“The goal is to leave the program not just drug-fee but also employed or going back to school,” Premier Jason Kenney said Saturday. “Recovery communities allow participants to heal and then find their rightful place in their community as responsible, law-abiding, contributing citizens.”

In total, 125 long-term resident addiction treatment beds will be created: 75 on the Blood Tribe and 50 in Lethbridge County.

As well, $1 million annually will go toward creating 16 new beds at the Foothills Centre in Fort Macleod, and $1.2 million annually to fund 16 new beds in the City of Lethbridge.

“We need to have programs that people have confidence in,” said Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman.

Read more: ARCHES audit findings turned over to Lethbridge police for investigation

Saturday’s announcement comes just over a week after ARCHES — the operator of Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site — was found to have severely misused taxpayer funds, resulting in the province pulling all support from the organization.

“We’re hitting the reset button. We’re going to do things differently,” Spearman said.

Support for the supervised consumption site in Lethbridge has been mixed since its inception, but some believe treatment to be the best route.

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“We need to start getting people into detox where they can start experiencing that recovery,” said Blood Tribe member Alvin Mills. “The sad reality of the opioid crisis is that it affected a lot of the Indigenous population here.”

Read more: Blood Tribe member offers help to southern Albertans dealing with addictions amid COVID-19 pandemic

Mills, who was once under the grasp of addiction himself, is a peer support worker with the Blood Tribe Department of Health. He is the founder of the Renewal and Healing Foundation (formerly the Foundation of Hope), helping the vulnerable population both on the reserve and in Lethbridge.

“When you show compassion, when you show you care on the streets out there, that’s all they need,” Mills said. “And now with [Kenney] making this announcement, it’s going to really help the community as a whole.”

About 50 new jobs will be created in the construction of the two newly announced facilities, the province said.