Edmonton and Lethbridge are set to open their first supervised consumption sites, and Calgary is not far down the line.
According to a release from the Government of Alberta, Health Canada has approved supervised consumption sites in five different locations.
Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton (AMSISE) will be offering the services in three community facilities within the City of Edmonton.
Meanwhile, community organization ARCHES will be setting up a supervised consumption site in Lethbridge’s downtown.
The supervised consumption sites are set to open in Edmonton between late 2017 to early 2018, and in downtown Lethbridge in early 2018.
The first in North America
Edmonton will also be offering supervised consumption for in-patients at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, the first hospital in North America to do so.
Those services will begin in spring 2018.
The Edmonton sites will only be offering supervised injection services, however, they are being termed “supervised consumption sites.”
Alberta Health Press Secretary Laura Ehrkamp told Daily Hive this is to leave open the possibility of offering other services, such as oral, inhalation, and intranasal consumption.
The site in Lethbridge will be offering all four services as soon as it opens.
“These sites will save the lives of Albertans at risk of dying from a drug overdose,” said Alberta’s Associate Minister of Health, Brandy Payne, in the release.
“We are pleased with the decision by Health Canada and thankful for the hard work by health care leaders and community groups to bring these services to the Albertans who need them.”
Alberta Health Services has also applied to offer supervised consumption services at Calgary’s Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre, and this is expected to be approved later this month.
315 Albertans dead in 2017 alone
The sites have the aim of curbing overdose deaths, reducing the spread of infections via used needles, and creating safer communities.
Since January 1, some 315 Albertans have lost their lives to apparent fentanyl-related overdoses.
“This sends a strong message to our patients and all Albertans who struggle with substance use, a message that shows we care about them, that their lives matter,” said Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, in the release.
Before the Edmonton sites were approved by Health Canada, AMSISE had hosted six open houses and surveyed 1,869 Edmontonians. They found 81% of those surveyed were in favour of opening supervised consumption sites.