The province is hoping to get an answer from the federal government on whether it can open supervised injection sites in Edmonton by the winter.
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman told reporters Thursday the province "is moving very quickly" with the federal government to get approval for Edmonton's proposed supervised injection sites.
"When we get that approval, we'll make sure that Edmonton is up and operational as soon as possible," Hoffman said at an International Overdose Awareness Day event at the Alberta legislature.
"These are people who are often struggling with so many difficult underlying challenges," she said. "If they've chosen to use one day, it shouldn't be a death sentence."
- Edmonton council throws support behind supervised injection sites
- McCauley residents fear safe injection sites will lead to more neighbourhood problems
- Protesters critical of plan for proposed injection sites
In May, Edmonton city council voted 10-1 to create supervised injection sites at three community centres — the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, the George Spady Centre and Boyle Street Community Services.
There would also be a site at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for inpatients as part of an addiction and recovery program.
Funding a supervised injection site falls under provincial jurisdiction, but approval requires a federal exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Opioid crisis still on the rise in the province
Hoffman's announcement comes at the same time Edmonton city council is receiving the latest update from Alberta Health on the opioid crisis.
The update states that, in 2016, 83 per cent of all accidental drug overdose deaths involved fentanyl or other opioids.
There have been 609 fentanyl-related deaths since the beginning of last year.
The Edmonton neighbourhood hit hardest by overdose deaths last year was Eastwood. That being said, the report notes that 69 per cent of all victims of overdose deaths lived outside the province's major urban centres.
The three proposed supervised injection sites in Edmonton are located in the downtown core.
Perry Caryk, a licensed practical nurse, travels around the city distributing clean needles to users in need.
He said the need extends well beyond Edmonton's downtown core.
"Drug use is spread amongst the whole city," he said. "I've been to really nice neighbourhoods for young kids that just want a couple needles … it's pretty much everywhere."