Fort McMurray is one of three northern Alberta communities to get new opioid treatment clinic’s.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman was in town on Monday announcing the start of two centres in Bonnyville and High Prairie and the expansion of the Fort McMurray Recovery Centre.
The clinics can treat up to 600 new patients annually and will be staffed by registered nurses and substance use councillors.
Alberta Health Services’ Interim North Zone Medical Director Sandra Corbett says this will allow residents to get all the treatment they need here.
“We’ve had the ability to maintain people on substitutes, opioid therapy but up until now to actually start on the program you had to go to Edmonton, now with this people won’t have to do that, they can do it locally.”
The Recovery Centre opened in January 2016 with the new expanded services being offered since February 2018.
Before, the Recovery Centre could only treat people who were already prescribed medicine such as methadone and suboxone. Now, two local doctors will work out of the clinic and can offer supports here while connecting with Edmonton – if need be.
“This is about adding to the mix and expanding the options for folks, especially if you’re living with an addiction,” added Hoffman.
She says the Fort McMurray Clinic will be able to help 300 patients annually, currently supporting 43 people.
The Recovery Centre is also offering a new video chat service.
People living in the rural communities can get the supports they need instead of driving to Fort McMurray or Edmonton, through their professional via the Telehealth line.
“It’s huge, we’re starting to use it for more remote communities so people don’t have to get into the big cities to see a psychiatrist or to see a physician,” said Corbett.
She says the idea moving forward is to have this service available for everyone across the RMWB, where they can use their phones to connect with the support staff.
In the first three months of 2018, 158 people have died from an apparent overdose, according to the Health Ministry’s first-quarter report on Opioids and Substances of Misuse.
Two of the deaths were in Fort McMurray, down from the five to start last year.
The North Zone, which includes the RMWB, has seen a total of eight overdoses, the lowest amount across the province.
“Whether the numbers are going up or the numbers are going down, that’s somebody who died,” said Hoffman. “Of course we want the numbers to continue to go down, even if its five people next quarter, that’s still five people who could be dads or moms.”
AHS says there is no explainable reason for the sudden decrease in numbers, focusing on multiple possible factors. Corbett notes the Recovery Clinic could be a reason and a big step in the right direction to end this epidemic.