News / Edmonton

Number of beds for youth battling fentanyl addiction 'inadequate': Advocate

Charity says many patients must wait months for a live-in treatment bed

Alberta Health Services has 329 in-patient beds available for people battling addictions in the Edmonton zone.

Metro File

Alberta Health Services has 329 in-patient beds available for people battling addictions in the Edmonton zone.

An advocate for youth battling fentanyl addiction says the number of reserved beds is insufficient for a "crisis" predominantly affecting people younger than 25.

Leslie Cleary, with Clean Scene, a charity that helps youth struggling with addiction, said the organization currently sees more than 40 youth clients dealing with fentanyl issues and that most are waiting months for a live-in treatment bed.

According to Alberta Health Services, the Edmonton zone has 329 in-patient treatment beds for people battling addictions.

In 2014, about 1,200 people in Alberta received treatment for addictions to opioids. The province has eight clinics that treat opioid dependencies, two of which are operated by AHS.

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AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an email that 15 of those 329 beds, are reserved for patients aged 18-25 and 21 more are for youth under 18.

"[I]t is very important to note that fentanyl is not age-specific," Williamson said in the email. "We are seeing patients of all ages and backgrounds."

Williamson added AHS has seen fentanyl addictions and fatalities in people younger than 18 and older than 50.

Cleary, however, said fentanyl abuse in Edmonton is most prevalent in recreational users under 25 and the most effective way to prevent overdoses and deaths is live-in treatment.

"Fifteen beds and we have over 40 clients with fentanyl addiction, up to age 25," she said. "It's kind of a landmine."

She said AHS' 15 youth-specific beds also come with specific treatments that have been proven to work, which makes their number very important when it comes to fentanyl.

"Their [youth] treatment program is entirely different," she said.

Williamson said AHS does not track wait-times for treatment beds, but said they are "generally short and vary across the province."

Cleary said the organization does track wait-times, but will not share them.

"The majority of clients we work with, we can't get them into treatment," Cleary said. "The waiting lists are up to 90 days."

In 2015 alone, more than 145 people have died after overdosing on fentanyl.

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