Health Canada approves safe injection site for Calgary; temporary site opens soon

By The Canadian Press
October 27, 2017 - 12:45pm

CALGARY — Health Canada has approved a safe injection site for opioid drugs in Calgary.

Alberta Health says a temporary site will open soon in the parking area of the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre while a permanent site inside the centre is being constructed.

Alberta Health says patients will also be able to get treatment, including suboxone, methadone, and counselling.

Evidence shows that supervised consumption services save lives, reduce transmission of infections by providing sterile needles and equipment and build safer communities by reducing public substance use and discarded needles.

Last week, Health Canada approved four safe injection sites for Edmonton and one for Lethbridge, and those are expected to open later this year or early next year.

Jessica Holtsbaum of the group Changing the Face of Addiction, called it great news.

"It will save lives and provide those with substance-use disorders an access point to further treatment. It is a long overdue step in the right direction. However, this is only one small step and momentum can't end here."

The province is providing $2.2 million for startup costs and for construction of the temporary and permanent locations at the Chumir health centre. The province will also provide operational funding for all six supervised consumption sites approved for Alberta.

As of mid-August 2017, 315 people have died of apparent fentanyl-related overdoses in Alberta. There were 586 suspected opioid-related deaths in the province last year.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information has said data from Alberta suggests emergency room visits related to heroin and synthetic opioid overdoses spiked almost 10-fold in the last five years.

The first safe consumption sites in Canada were set up in Vancouver. Health Canada has approved other sites in Montreal and Toronto.

Last month, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said at least 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016 and that number is expected to grow this year.

The Canadian Press

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