Calgary

Calgary agencies receive $328K to raise awareness of opioid crisis

The province has committed $1.4 million in grants to raise awareness of Alberta's opioid crisis through projects intended to educate the public and reduce stigma.

The funds are part of $1.4M in grants from the province

Rosalind Davis is the co-founder of Calgary non-profit Changing the Face of Addiction, one of the groups that received funding. (Michael Symington/CBC)

The province has committed $1.4 million in grants to raise awareness of Alberta's opioid crisis through projects intended to educate the public and reduce stigma.

Seven projects in Calgary will receive a total of $328,000 in funds.

An average of nearly two Albertans died each day last year of apparent accidental drug poisoning deaths related to fentanyl.

"These are members of our community, they're family members, they're loved ones. And these deaths are preventable," said Rosalind Davis, co-founder of Calgary non-profit Changing the Face of Addiction, one of the groups that received funding.

The grants, which were announced Thursday, will fund 29 projects around the province. 

U of C to raise awareness of harm-reduction methods

Debbie Bruckner, the senior director of Student Wellness Access and Support with the University of Calgary, said the school will stretch out its $65,000 grant over two years to help raise awareness of opioid use and harm-reduction methods.

"That's about dispelling myths, reducing stigma, and creating a culture where people start to talk about it more and realize there's no judgment around asking for help or wanting to get trained," Bruckner said.

Bruckner said the university is aware fentanyl and opioids have been used on campus, and said there are so many reasons people end up facing addiction.

"We know they are, and they're afraid to talk about it and they're afraid to ask for help," she said.

589 people died of fentanyl poisoning in Alberta last year

Davis said for her non-profit, the funds allow them to host informational sessions with safe learning environments, and create videos that would spread awareness in Calgary.

She founded the organization in 2016, several months after her partner died from fentanyl poisoning.

"After his death, I realized how little I knew about addiction," she said.

Her goal is to create awareness, reduce stigma and save others from the same fate.

"When we look at addiction and substance-use differently we can see there is hope," she said.

Last year, 589 people in Alberta died of fentanyl poisoning — 272 of those deaths were in Calgary, according to Alberta Health. In the first month of 2018, 74 people had died — 36 in Calgary.

The grants are part of the health minister's Opioid Emergency Response Commission, which was created to implement harm-reduction, treatment and prevention initiatives across the province. 

With files from Elizabeth Snaddon

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