In 2019, the UCP government said it would establish 4,000 treatment spaces for Albertans suffering from addictions.
Now, two years later, Premier Jason Kenney says the government is doing even more.
He made the announcement at the Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary, alongside Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis.
“We care,” Kenney said. “And recovery from addiction is possible.”
All of the addiction treatment available through the province is free for Albertans to access.
Support provided at residential recovery facilities includes improving physical and mental health, fostering connections between family and community, building employment skills, ensuring housing stability and more.
New software, called My Recovery Plan, is also being provided to operators of treatment centres. Officials say this tool will help “fix the broken system.”
“We have heard for years that the addiction care system is broken. When we came into office, Albertans were having to decide between selling their car and remortgaging their home to access life-saving treatment and recovery services. This was completely unacceptable,” said Mike Ellis, Alberta’s associate minister of mental health and addictions in a statement.
CALLS FOR HARM REDUCTION
But past policy was still somewhat of a focus at Saturday’s announcement.
Many health experts and drug advocates call the UCP approach to a deadly stretch of overdoses “one-sided.”
Many would like to see more of an emphasis put on harm reduction.
Advocate Euan Thomson wants supervised consumption sites and safe opioid treatment programs to still be encouraged to those struggling with addiction.
“If the wine and beer supply was poisoned right now and people were dying from drinking wine and beer, we could probably address the supply,” he said to CTV News, “rather than try and build a bunch of recovery beds for daily beer drinkers to get off their habit.
“We need to address the poison drug supply.”
The Premier says he agrees harm reduction steps are still needed for some, but Albertans should instead be focused on solutions.
“The staff (at supervised consumption sites) shouldn’t just be there to help them shoot up,” he said. “The staff should be there to help them provide a way out of the addiction.”
“Unfortunately, for a lot of people,” Thomson said, “that just isn’t realistic or even desirable.”
Thomson and many other harm reduction advocates also worry eventual relapses won’t be addressed properly in a province completely focused on recovery.
“We should look at it in terms of keeping people alive, first and foremost,” he said.
Kenney believes it’s time for a new strategy.
“One definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome,” the Premier said. “We don’t think facilitating deadly addictions is the safe or responsible approach.”
The province also pushed on Saturday for more Albertans to download its Digital Overdose Response System — or DORS.
It’s a free app that can connect those who use illicit drugs at home with emergency services if they’re needed.
230 users have registered on DORS since it’s August launch.
The province wouldn’t say how many times it’s successfully connected a resident with an emergency response.