Once again, Red Deer and central Alberta have been overlooked by the province, this time for dollars to provide more detox beds for those with opioid dependencies.
This is the sentiment of Stacey Carmichael who recently took over as Executive Director at Turning Point. Though it is just one example of an opioid, statistics show Red Deer had the highest rate of fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta in 2016 at 21 deaths per 100,000 people.
Friday, the Provincial Government announced $4.6 million to fund 2,000 treatment beds in Calgary and Edmonton. The beds will ensure more people can receive Suboxone or methadone treatment, as well as counselling.
While Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne says this is just one step in a much larger effort to keep Albertans safe and healthy when it comes to substance use, Carmichael says people in Red Deer are dying right now.
"The community has been talking about it for many years -- access to a continuum of addiction treatments from prevention through harm reduction to treatment. We don't seem to ever get to that treatment side of things,” she says. "I would hope folks who do live in central Alberta would still have the opportunity to access those services if they can find transportation.”
Carmichael notes transporting people for treatment up and down the QEII isn’t exactly ideal and she has no inkling if the Central Zone is near the top of the government's priority list.
"I honestly can't say. I know that we have lots of local service providers and our municipality advocating for it,” she says. “So hopefully we have some luck.”
According to a release from the Health Ministry, expanded treatment at individual clinics will serve 2,480 new patients annually and expanded mobile outreach will provide up to 3,700 new patient visits each year in Edmonton and Calgary.
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