Boyle Street Community Services says a new health-care hub planned in Edmonton’s Strathcona neighbourhood is due to open next spring, with community consultations in the works.
The south side facility would be Edmonton’s first supervised consumption or overdose prevention site located south of the river.
The proposed hub will include an overdose prevention site with three booths where people can use self-supplied drugs in a sterile environment while being assessed by nurses.
Boyle Street says it has received the proper zoning from the City of Edmonton for 10119 81 Ave., just off of Whyte Avenue. It also has a lease, funding, and the provincial government’s promised cooperation pending community approval of the site.
Funding is year-to-year with a lease until 2026, Boyle Street said, and added “services are based on community need and we will continue to assess the situation and adjust as required.”
The organization is now in the beginning stages of the community consultation process.
Community engagement will be done in a 500-metre radius, and a good-neighbour agreement will be done within 200 metres of the proposed location.
“We put a lot of thought and effort into where it should go,” Sindi Addorisio, the hub’s lead developer, said in an interview with CTV News Edmonton on Thursday.
During her research, she found calls for opioid poisonings have gone up by 12 per cent over the last year in the Strathcona area, according to Alberta Health Services EMS data.
Part of the engagement process includes a town hall meeting on Dec. 13. The business association was also notified of the hub proposal.
Kris Armitage, board chair of the Old Strathcona Business Association (OSBA), said it had just learned about the project and needed time to speak with member businesses, Boyle Street and the city to determine “how to best support those who live and work in Old Strathcona.”
He also said the OSBA plans to attend the open house and encourages business owners and staff to do the same “so they can have their questions answered by Boyle Street directly.”
Fox Runner Tattoo, located on the same street as the proposed site, told CTV News it supports Boyle Street opening an overdose-prevention site in the area.
An auto body shop across the street, Southern Auto Body, said it was blindsided by the proposal and that there are “too many questions that have not been answered.”
The province will provide up to $2.15 million per year to support operations if the proposal does move forward.
“Boyle Street Community Services, with the support of Alberta Mental Health and Addiction, recently identified a potential space in Edmonton’s Strathcona neighbourhood,” spokesperson Colin Aitchison said in a statement.
“As community engagement is an essential part of this process, community members will have the opportunity to participate in a public engagement session in the near future.”
OVERDOSE PREVENTION VS. SUPERVISED CONSUMPTION
Overdose prevention sites are not legally interchangeable with supervised consumption sites. The first are classified as temporary services funded by the province, whereas supervised consumption sites are permanent, federally approved facilities.
In the past, Edmonton has had two overdose prevention sites at temporary winter shelters: one at the Edmonton Convention Centre and the other at Commonwealth Stadium.
Addorisio emphasized that the Old Strathcona facility will also offer holistic care and wrap-around services.
“If somebody needs to talk to a housing worker or somebody needs a social service referral or mental health support that’s available for other community as well,” Addorisio told CTV News Edmonton.
The health hub will both use harm-reduction measures and help with addiction recovery, as the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, Addorisio told CTV News Edmonton.
“With the toxic drug supply, we have lost so many people needlessly over the past five years, so we hope to not only save lives but to just improve quality of life,” she said. “And if recovery and treatment is the road that at that point that individual wants to make … we are there right then at that time frame to be able to help them.”
Addorisio would like people to view the hub as more than a place where people can use drugs.
“My hope is that people feel that this won’t be a safety issue and that we are taking great care of the full community and it’s not just focused on the overdose prevention – the three booths that are going to be there – but full wrap-around holistic care.”
Boyle Street Community Services says that final approval of the project is ultimately up to the provincial government and that a decision will be made once community consultations are complete.
The hub is expected to open in the early spring if approved.