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Updated: 4th September 2018 16:36

Province funds 20 medical opioid detox beds at Red Deer facility

The Alberta government is spending $1.6 million to provide 20 new medically-enhanced opioid detox beds at a facility in Red Deer.

$1.6M grant will allow Safe Harbour Society to help 400 people get off drugs

Dr. Michael Mulholland, leader of medically supported detox for the Safe Harbour Society, says the new funding from the province is a recognition that addiction is a medical and social issue. (CBC)

The provincial government is spending $1.6 million to provide 20 new medically-enhanced opioid detox beds at a support centre in Red Deer.

The grant awarded to the Safe Harbour Society last month has so far allowed 127 people to benefit from the new program, where they receive wraparound services including counselling, housing and other supports, the province says.

From January to September, 30 people died in central Alberta from drug overdoses, said Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne.

Provincewide, in the first three-quarters of this year, there were 482 accidental overdose deaths related to opioid use. During the same time period last year, there were 346 such deaths.

"As long as people continue to die, our work and the work of our partners like Safe Harbour will not stop," Payne said.

Payne said the new program will allow Safe Harbour to help 400 people per year.

Five of the 20 beds are extended-stay beds, allowing patients to receive care on site until a space in residential treatment is ready, or until housing is secured.

'We're in a battle for lives'

The Safe Harbour program features seven Red Deer physicians providing treatments such as methadone or Suboxone for opioid-addicted clients.

They also work with on-site case managers to get them into ongoing community care when they're ready, the province says.

Making sure people struggling with opioid dependency get treatment when they first reach out for help is the key to preventing more lives from being lost, Payne said.

"We really are in a battle here today. We're in a battle for lives," said Dr. Michael Mulholland, leader of medically supported detox for Safe Harbour.

"The reality is that addiction is a medical and social issue, and those who struggle with substance-use issues are part of our communities and our families," he said.

Safe Harbour Society also offers emergency shelter and services for people in Red Deer struggling with substance abuse and homelessness.

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