LETHBRIDGE – Alberta’s associate health minister, Brandy Payne, got a chance to tour the future site of a new detoxification centre at Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital Thursday afternoon, Nov. 30, just days before construction will get underway.
Work is scheduled to begin on Monday, Dec. 4, and will see eight detox beds open in the south-west corner of the hospital in the fall of 2018, for individuals dealing with substance abuse issues.
During the tour, Payne discussed the importance of the new beds, as Lethbridge and the entire province grapples with the opioid crisis.
“From our point of view, it’s so important that when Albertans are looking for help with their substance use challenges, that that help is readily available for them and as close to home as possible,” stated Payne.
“In many ways, we're dealing with an unprecedented emergency,” she continued. “We're seeing more people dying than ever before. And ultimately, we have a history of not treating substance use like the medical condition that it is, which is why I'm really proud that our government has moved forward on increasing access to treatment, increasing access to detox.”
When asked if eight beds are enough to combat the opioid crisis in Lethbridge, Payne called it a good start, saying they will look to add more in the future if the demand is there.
Guiding the tour was addiction and mental health director, Thomas Mountain. He explained that individuals occupying the eight beds will be cared for by a 24-hour nursing team, who will provide medications as directed by a doctor.
The voluntary program is geared towards people who are seeking help and who have met with either a physician or counsellor. They will then be assessed to determine if medical support is needed to help them detox.
Mountain also outlined what the program will look like for patients when it opens next fall.
“Our experience in the Medicine Hat Recovery Centre has told us that, typically, it's about a seven-day program that people will be involved in detox,” he explained. “During that time, we'll start talking to [patients] about recovery, we will talk to them about their interest in looking at treatment or counselling, we will help facilitate connections to counselling services if they want to. We will certainly talk to them about reducing the harms related to substance abuse and ask them about what's going on with their family and in their lives that we can support as well.”
An important element that Mountain touched on, is how the detox beds will help to form what he called a full continuum of services for addiction care in southern Alberta.
The beds will join the list of local options both already in place and soon to come online – such as counselling, social detoxification and residential treatment centres, and ARCHES safe consumption site, which is slated to open in January 2018 – to ensure those struggling with addiction issues have a full range of options available to them.
“Lethbridge is really great with its collaboration,” Mountain stated. “We work together and we're often talking about how to make sure our services are as seamless as possible, so people can get to the place they need for the addiction treatment they need in southern Alberta.”
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