Calgary

300% increase in overdose interventions taking toll on Drop-In Centre staff

Overdose interventions have gone up 300 per cent at the Calgary Drop-In Centre in the new year, and the executive director says staff are experiencing a high rate of stress-related burnout.

Staff are not medical experts, says executive director

The Calgary Drop-In Centre has seen 41 suspected overdoses since the beginning of January. Last year, there were 14. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Overdose interventions have gone up 300 per cent at the Calgary Drop-In Centre in the new year, and the executive director says staff are becoming overwhelmed.

"It is taking its toll in terms of having to be on high alert all the time," said executive director Sandra Clarkson. "We're having to do bathroom checks every 10 minutes and that takes people off the floor. In the past we didn't necessarily have to do that as frequently."

The shelter often deals with vulnerable populations, but this rapid increase is staggering, and Clarkson says it's getting hard for staff and clients to cope.

Sandra Clarkson, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, says more help is needed for staff dealing with a huge increase in overdose interventions on site. (Calgary Drop-In Centre)

From the beginning of January to the end of March last year, the Drop-In Centre handled 14 suspected overdoses. So far this year that number has shot up to 41 cases.

Clarkson says staff do get training in the use of naloxone, the drug often used to treat overdoses, and they have first aid training. But, she says, they're not medical experts.

"We're experiencing a high rate of stress related burnout," she said.

The Drop-In Centre offers other supports like a trauma counsellor for workers. But, the organization is looking for solutions, including more support from the provincial government, community agencies and Alberta Health Services.

Clarkson says ideally, their shelter would have a nurse available around the clock — but the funding for that just isn't there.