News / Calgary

Calgary's supervised consumption site prevents 24 hospital transfers in first month

According to AHS, there have been 224 unique clients at the site between Oct. 30 and Nov. 30

This temporary supervised consumption service facility in the Sheldon M. Chumir's surface parking lot in Calgary has been open for a little more than a month.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

This temporary supervised consumption service facility in the Sheldon M. Chumir's surface parking lot in Calgary has been open for a little more than a month.

Calgary’s first supervised consumption site was visited nearly 1,000 times in its first month of operation, according to the program coordinator for the harm reduction agency that manages it.

The temporary facility in the parking lot of the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre downtown has been getting busier with each week that passes, according to Claire O’Gorman with Safeworks.

“Our first week, we saw an average of 11 people per day, and in the last week of November, we saw an average of 59 visits a day,” O’Gorman told Metro. “So far it’s been going really well.”

She said there have been 224 unique clients at the site since it opened its doors, between Oct. 30 and Nov. 30, and 990 visits in total.

“People are coming, and then they’re coming back and bringing a friend,” O’Gorman said. “To me, that says we’re giving them non-judgemental, welcoming services that they want to use.”

According to AHS' data, 26 overdoses have been reversed at the site, which will move into a permanent space in the Chumir in early 2018.

“And only two of those (overdoses) required an EMS response,” O’Gorman said.

“They were handled, for the most part, on site by the registered nurses there … so (there were) certainly some overall cost savings to the system to not have all of those people end up in hospital.”

It’s not all about safe consumption at the site, either.

According to AHS, 16 per cent of the visitors were there to connect to other harm reduction services or access harm reduction supplies, including take-home naloxone kits – 138 kits were distributed from the facility in November.

There are four consumption booths inside the temporary facility as well as a monitoring room and space for staff.

ALBERTA HEALTH SERVICES

There are four consumption booths inside the temporary facility as well as a monitoring room and space for staff.

O’Gorman said they haven’t had to turn anyone away to date, but a steady stream of people comes through their doors, which are open from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

“We really appreciated having such strong partnerships with Calgary Police and EMS and dispatch, because having those processes in place have been a large part of the success,” O’Gorman said.

CPS Chief Const. Roger Chaffin told Metro in an interview last week that officers in District 1 officers have been paying attention to the area to see if there were any social disorder problems that popped up once the site opened.

“And we haven’t seen any of that, which was to be expected – so that’s good to see,” Chaffin said.

When it comes to illicit substances, he said CPS’ focus is on traffickers and producers – not those who are suffering from addictions.

Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin spoke at the Sheldon M. Chumir Heath Centre on April 14, 2017, at an announcement that the facility will be host to Calgary's first supervised consumption site. L-R in background: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne, Minister of Justice Kathleen Ganley, and Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley also spoke.

ELIZABETH CAMERON/FOR METRO

Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin spoke at the Sheldon M. Chumir Heath Centre on April 14, 2017, at an announcement that the facility will be host to Calgary's first supervised consumption site. L-R in background: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne, Minister of Justice Kathleen Ganley, and Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley also spoke.

“If they don’t get the support and help they need, then they’re going to get into further problems, more criminal problems and more health problems, and likely end up with shorter lives because of it … so we have to make sure our effort isn’t around chasing around the vulnerable addict as much we’re chasing the people who are creating the harm,” Chaffin said.

The future site inside the Chumir will expand the current capacity from four consumption booths to six, O’Gorman said.

“We’ll have a bigger monitoring room (there), which will allow for a little more opportunity for interaction and engagement in that space that we can currently accommodate,” she added.

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