In response to the escalating overdose crisis in Medicine Hat, the city’s primary harm reduction service provider, HIV Community Link’s Safelink program, is implementing Supervised Consumption Services (SCS). The location of this vital, evidence-based public health service will be 502 South Railway Street SE. A lease agreement has been finalized, with the onset of services anticipated later in 2019.
The Medicine Hat Coalition on Supervised Consumption, (MHCSC) has led a comprehensive needs assessment and community engagement process since 2017, after an exponential increase in opioid-related overdose and overdose death in Alberta. As a result of this process, the MHCSC received feedback from members of the community, business owners, elected officials and service providers, which has been taken into consideration in the choice of location and in the planning of services. “HIV Community Link is committed to working with the City of Medicine Hat, the community and the other members of MHCSC to proactively plan and implement services that respond to the needs of people at risk of overdose, while minimizing any potential impacts to the surrounding area,” says Leslie Hill, Executive Director of HIV Community Link and chair of the MHCSC.
Pending final approval from Health Canada, the SCS in Medicine Hat will offer a safe space for people who use substances to reduce the risk of overdose and overdose death, while also providing wraparound services such as supportive counselling, connections to housing programs and referrals to addiction and mental health treatment. Health Canada has approved multiple SCS locations throughout the province, and where a need in a particular community is identified the provincial government has committed to working with service providers and the municipalities to establish services.
According to Alberta Health, 18 fentanyl-related overdose deaths have occurred in the city of Medicine Hat since 2016. The rate of overdose and overdose death continue to climb in the community every year. A recent study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) indicated that Medicine Hat has the fifth-highest rate of hospitalizations related to opioid overdose amongst smaller cities across the country. Evidence shows SCS save lives, reduce transmission of infections and increase community safety by reducing public substance use and incidence of publicly discarded injection equipment. SCS also reduce the pressure on local hospitals and first responders (EMS, Fire and Police) and increase access to treatment services.
Do you have questions about SCS? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (587) 393-4095.
To read the Medicine Hat Report Back to Community, click here.