AHS to take over Red Deer, Alta. supervised consumption site, transition to mobile service

Alberta Health Services logo. On Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in Edmonton. Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Alberta Health Services (AHS) will take over a supervised consumption site (SCS) in Red Deer, Alta. and transition it to a mobile service, in the interest of putting safety and security concerns of residents first.

The province made the announcement in a news release Friday.

Turning Point has been operating the SCS in Red Deer since October 2018. According to Turning Point, in 2022 the site at 5246 53 Ave. was used 38,094 times and staff delivered nearly 1,500 suspected overdose reversals.

Turning Point was not aware of the transition and found out after overhearing local politicians discussing the change. According to the province, the Turning Point SCS was always meant to be a “temporary measure” while the province, AHS and the City of Red Deer determined an alternative long-term plan for a SCS in the city.

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“(I) want to extend a formal apology to Turning Point and the service providers in our community who learned about the transition after overhearing one of our city council members talking with a provincial colleague about it in the community,” said Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston in a statement. “We know this is unacceptable, we apologize.”

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Johnston thanked Turning Point for their years of service.

“This transition is necessary to respond to the changing needs in Red Deer while improving the standard of service delivery at the overdose prevention site,” the province said.

Click to play video: 'Edmontonians voice concerns over propose supervised consumption site in Ritchie'
Edmontonians voice concerns over propose supervised consumption site in Ritchie

The province said once the transition occurs, the new mobile unit will operate at the same location as the site, but the location of the service may change based on input from the city of Red Deer and residents of Red Deer.

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According to a survey conducted by the Alberta government in 2019, 93 per cent of Red Deer business owners and 81 per cent of residents were not supportive of having an SCS in the same area as their business or home.

More than a dozen studies from the past 20 years support the conclusion that SCSs are associated with lower levels of discarded drug paraphernalia, open drug use and other disorder.

Turning Point said its employees conduct a clean-up sweep of sharps and other needle debris within a 200-metre radius of the SCS three times a day.

The province said the transition will happen over the next three to six months and that there will be no gaps in services for the people using them.

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