It’s a place Shane Monette never thought he’d be in: spending $400 a day on drugs to feed an addiction.
“For me, fentanyl was a love affair — an obsession,” Monette explained.
He and several other patients of the Injectable Opioid Agonist Treatment Clinics (iOAT) were on hand Thursday morning when Edmonton lawyer Avnish Nanda announced details of a new lawsuit against the province to stop the planned closure of the specialized programs which have a presence in both Edmonton and Calgary.
“The closure of iOAT will cause people to die,” Nanda said.
The clinics, designed for the most severe opioid addicts, provide patients with strong pharmaceutical drugs, under supervision and with a focus on supports, with the goal of breaking the addiction.
They were launched as a pilot project by the previous NDP provincial government.
Earlier this year, the province announced the clinics would close by the end of March 2021.
“We’re suing the provincial government over its decision to shut down the program,” Nanda said.
The suit, filed with 27 affidavits, argues the 11 plaintiffs are being denied their Charter rights.
“The right to life, liberty and security of the person, their right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment from the government and their equality rights,” Nanda said.
In a statement, the province indicates the previous government made no provisions for an evaluation of the program.
“To be clear, clients of the pilot study are able to access similar treatments through Alberta Health Services at 10 opioid dependency clinics, and more than 40 per cent of active iOAT clients have already successfully transitioned to other appropriate treatment options,” wrote Kassandra Kitz, the press secretary for Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Health, Jason Luan.
The legal challenge comes as recent figures show between April and June, 301 Albertans died from opioid overdoses — twice as many compared to the first three months of the year.
“Look at me, people can get through this,” Monette said.
Monette praises the program, his option of last resort, saying it’s “helped me maintain my life and become stable again.”
He’s candid about his experience, speaking out so others who may be struggling know things can change.
“They just need to have the proper support and ways for treatment.”