Alberta to spend $9.5M to train family doctors in opioid addiction treatment

The provincial government is spending $9.5 million over three years to increase training and support available for primary care physicians treating opioid addiction in Alberta.

Goal is to have treatment options available at doctors' offices province-wide

Dr. Bonnie Larson (left) and Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne at a press conference announcing $9.5 million in funding to train physicians in treating opioid addictions. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The Alberta government has announced a new $9.5 million provincial grant designated to provide more resources for primary care and family physicians who treat those affected by the opioid crisis.

The money, spread over three years, will go toward training and education for front-line doctors, and is intended to also increase access to services and materials such as naloxone kits. 

"Today's announcement helps to support people living in suburbs, and people living in rural and smaller communities in a way that some of the other work hasn't been able to," explained provincial associate minister of health Brandy Payne.

"By bringing opioid replacement therapy, the gold standard ... into a family doctor's office ... I think that's going to be a real game changer," said Payne.

Some physicians lack necessary resources

While treatment for opioid addiction has become higher profile as overdoses increase in Alberta, the government says this funding is meant to bring expertise to the first point of contact for many who access health care.

"Many [family physicians] simply lack the necessary preparation and resources to deal specifically with the opioid crisis," said Dr. Bonnie Larson, a Calgary doctor speaking at the government's announcement on Friday.

Dr. Bonnie Larson displays her personal naloxone kit at a press conference announcing new funding for primary care providers treating opioid addiction. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"Families express puzzlement and grief saying we touch the health care system so many times and yet still ... [we need to] do better for our patients," said Dr. Larson.

Shawna Taylor is an advocate and parent of a recovering fentanyl addict who spoke in support of funding additional training for front line medical practitioners.

"In all the times that we were in the emergency rooms or at a family doctor, not one person told me to get a naloxone kit," said Taylor.

According to the provincial government, about 3,800 physicians at 1,000 clinics across Alberta will have access to the new training resources.