Calgary safe consumption site leads clients to treatment program

Dr. Ron Lim says up to 40 users from the safe consumption site have so far been referred to the program, some from a demographic they struggled to reach before.

Located 1 floor above the site, Calgary Opioid Dependency Program receives some new clients

An injection kit is shown at a supervised injection facility in Vancouver. Calgary's first safe consumption site at the Sheldon Chumir Centre has directed 40 people to a treatment program. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The supervised drug consumption site at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre provides a space for addicts to get high safely, but it's also funnelling more people into an opioid treatment program. 

Dr. Ron Lim is the medical lead for the Calgary Opioid Dependency Program, which operates one floor above the site.

He says up to 40 users from the safe consumption site have so far been referred to the program, some from a demographic they struggled to reach before.

"These are individuals who were not ready to be engaged with us," said Lim. "They would not self-refer, a lot of them are homeless, they're the most vulnerable populations that we see, and this allows us to engage them."

He says his program has more than 540 patients in treatment, which includes counselling, medical treatment and providing substitution medications like methadone and suboxone. 

"The success rates for using these medications is 50 to 60 per cent," said Lim. "But if you take an opioid user and you don't provide treatment for them and you just simply take them off and detox them, about 93 per cent of individuals will relapse."