Alberta supervised consumption sites have 100% success rate at reversing overdoses: report

The authors of a new report on the impacts of supervised consumption sites are hoping the province will take their work into account in its planned review.

Authors of report hope government will take data into account during review

A dish of sterile needles, alcohol swabs, and drug test strips.
A new report compiles data on supervised consumption sites across Alberta. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The authors of a new report on the impacts of Alberta's supervised consumption sites hope the province will take their research into account in its planned review — research that shows the sites are saving lives.

Consumption site staff in the province have responded to more than 4,300 overdoses — with zero deaths, according to new data in the report compiled by the Alberta Community Council on HIV.

It also found staff have averted more than 3,700 EMS calls, and that there's been a decline in opioid-related deaths, overdoses in emergency rooms and EMS responses, all attributable to the harm-reduction strategies.

We know that supervised consumption sites save lives.- Celeste Hayward, ACCH

Celeste Hayward, executive director of ACCH, says they've submitted their report to the premier, health minister and associate minister of addiction. They've also made a formal request to present to the provincial review panel.

"We haven't heard anything back from them," Hayward said. "I think it would be really great for them to hear us."

The government's panel will look at the socio-economic impacts of the sites, but the review has been criticized for its plan not to look at any health impacts. 

The panel also doesn't include a member from south of Calgary, despite Lethbridge reportedly having the busiest supervised consumption site in North America.

Hayward said the panel could benefit from the information in their report.

"We know that supervised consumption sites save lives. There's a 100 per cent success rate with overdose reversals at all of the supervised consumption sites in Alberta," Hayward said. 

And, she said, the report also finds that because the sites lower involvement of groups like police and firefighters, there's an economic benefit as well.

The sites give people an entry into the health-care system, she said, reducing costs in the long-run because it means more health issues are getting tackled in their infancy before they develop into more expensive problems.

It found savings of $5 for every dollar spent.

"Not only are we talking about saving lives, but we're also talking about it from the economic and business perspective."

Associate minister says ACCH welcome to submit report

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan says the council is welcome to submit its report to the panel and request a meeting, but that it will be up to the panel to decide if they take the ACCH report into account.

"I do not direct who the panel speaks to or what submissions they consider. The panel's mandate is to review the evidence of socio-economic impacts that SCSs have on communities and to receive submissions on that," Luan said in an emailed statement.

He said the report cites several pieces of data as evidence supervised consumption sites are an effective harm-reduction tool — and said that's not something the government disputes. He said that evidence will be summarized separately and presented to cabinet to consider along with the review.

The panel will hold public engagement sessions over three weeks in September in every community where supervised consumption sites are already operating or are proposed. Albertans will also be able to submit feedback online.

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With files from Lucie Edwardson