Alberta providing up to $4.3M per year to fund drug treatment spaces
Fresh Start Recovery Centre and Sunrise Healing Lodge in Calgary will receive funding
Calling Alberta's drug crisis a "social catastrophe," Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the provincial government would provide up to $4.3 million per year to fund treatment spaces at three recovery centres in the province.
"Anybody who gets engaged in self-destructive behaviour, that is a tragedy," Kenney said during a press conference held Saturday. "Even in that environment where we're trimming spending by [two or three per cent] overall, there's one area where we're spending a lot more. And that's this. That's in programs like this."
The province says the funding will support 76 new beds, creating 2,172 new treatment spaces over the next three years at Fresh Start Recovery Centre and Sunrise Healing Lodge in Calgary and at Thorpe Recovery Centre near Lloydminster.
Fresh Start will receive up to $1.6 million each year to fund 30 of its 50 beds which translates to nearly 300 treatment spaces over three years. Kenney said only one bed is currently publicly funded.
Stacey Petersen, executive director of that recovery centre, called the funding a "game changer."
"This kind of support for abstinence-based treatment and long-term recovery is unprecedented," he said. "There has been decisive action and investment that supports this system for Albertans."
Thorpe Recovery Centre in Lloydminister will receive $2.2 million for 36 beds creating 574 treatment spaces including some for medically assisted detox. Sunrise Healing Lodge in Calgary, which specializes in assisting Indigenous people with addictions, will be getting $520,000 for 10 beds.
The government has made a $140-million commitment to battle the opioid epidemic and support recovery-oriented addiction and mental health care, funding 4,000 spaces in treatment centres over three years.
The investment comes as the Alberta government continues to study the impact of supervised consumption sites on crime rates, property values and social order. A panel was formed last year to study the subject. But that panel's report is not considering harm reduction, establishing new sites, provincial funding or housing.
In December, Associate Health Minister Jason Luan announced 10 government-funded opioid dependency clinics would get a piece of $2 million over four years.
Speaking in Calgary in January, Kenney said he had viewed a preliminary report from that panel and said it was possible that the province could close or relocate some of those supervised sites.
He said there is a role for harm reduction sites, but the emphasis has to be on detox and treatment.
He also said the sites are now "more than injections ... they're just illegal drug sites."
Lethbridge NDP legislature member Shannon Phillips has said closing the site in her city would be devastating, and that people would die.
Kenney said that the province is fortunate to have a wide array of treatment facilities operated by dozens of agencies "with tremendous expertise in treating addiction." He thanked them for their dedication, even when he said that in some cases they had to fundraise over 90 per cent of their budgets.
Alberta Community Council on HIV published a reporter last year found that Alberta's supervised consumption sites have had a 100 per cent success rate at reversing overdoses.
With files from David Bell, The Canadian Press