The Red Deer Temporary Overdose Prevention Site celebrated its third anniversary.
The only OPS in central Alberta opened on October 1, 2018 and has since recorded a total of 116,358 visits and 3,553 canceled overdoses, the Turning Point Society said in a statement.
“I’m glad we were able to provide this service because it has saved so many lives and created so many connections for people. Having said that, I look forward to the day when we will be able to improve OPS into an SCS (supervised consumption site) that provides even more robust supports, ”said Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point who manages the overdose prevention site.
PAHO was initially set up as a temporary health service intended to respond quickly to the increase in overdose deaths in Red Deer. Simultaneously, Turning Point was working with the provincial government and the City of Red Deer towards an SCS.
Turning Point said an SCS would provide long-term service delivery, with access to additional supports – including social work, counseling, and opioid addiction treatment – all under one roof. But the work stopped when the province launched a province-wide review of these services.
“We will continue to work with various stakeholders on the addition of an SCS in Red Deer. The OPS was never intended to stay open for this long, but it shows how essential these services are and how resilient our community is, as we have been operational for three years, ”said Carmichael.
“The OPS will always be a safe, open, non-judgmental space and an integral part of a community-based solution to an ongoing opioid epidemic,” said Sarah Fleck, clinical manager of the OPS.
Fleck said the OPS remains just as essential to the community today as Albertans “are still dying at an unprecedented rate.”
In 2018, there were 806 opioid-related deaths in Alberta. In 2020, Alberta recorded over 1,100 opioid-related deaths.
“We need more open conversations, less stigma, more hope, less judgment,” Fleck said.
Craig Rompain, who has been using OPS since it opened, said it was imperative to have access to the site.
“Considering that they have saved my life on several occasions, their purpose within our community is undeniable. The OPS is absolutely vital in keeping people alive and helping them maintain a safe practice, ”said Rompain.
Fleck said the staff at the OPS care and work with some of the most amazing, creative, intelligent and resilient people she has ever met.
“It is an honor to be a part of their journey, and I am very grateful for our caring, empathetic, strong and empowering team,” said Fleck.
The OPS, which currently operates from the property of the Safe Harbor Society, employs more than 50 people, consisting of registered nurses, advanced care paramedics and support staff.
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