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Did you know...

There was a 9267% increase in the number of overdose deaths in the province of Alberta between 2011 and 2017. 

 

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According to Alberta Health, in 2017 there were 562 deaths by fentanyl poisoning (2018). This is more than the death rates for motor vehicle accidents and homicides combined. 

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In 2016-2017, Medicine Hat experienced 10 opioid-related overdose deaths, and the South Zone had the highest rate of emergency room visits related to opioids (23% higher than the provincial average). 

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What is harm reduction? 

Harm reduction is a nonjudgmental, evidence based public health approach that acknowledges that people engage in risk behaviors and provides practical tools, strategies and knowledge to keep people safe and minimize death, disease and injury. 

Examples of harm reduction include seatbelts, life jackets, bike helmets, needle exchange programs, naloxone kits, and supervised consumption services. 


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In 2017, Medicine Hat experienced 61 EMS calls
related to opioid overdose. 

 
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What are supervised consumption services (SCS)?

 
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Supervised consumption services are an intervention that provides a safe and hygienic environment where people can use pre-obtained illicit drugs under the supervision of trained staff. They are a part of a wider harm reduction strategy to reduce the negative impacts of drug use, including overdose and death. 

 
 
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What are the benefits to SCS?

SCS save lives through the prevention of overdose and overdose deaths. They have also been demonstrated to reduce public drug use, discarding of drug use supplies in public spaces, and transmission of disease. 

In addition, supervised consumption services reduces the pressure on first responders, (EMS, fire and police) and local hospitals and increases access to drug treatment services. 

 
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Myths and facts

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Myth:

Harm reduction condones drug use.

Fact:

Harm reduction recognizes that drug use is a reality, and seeks to improve health and safety within this reality.

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Myth:

SCS encourage drug use.

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Fact:

There is no evidence that SCS promote drug use. Studies indicate that they do not increase drug use or lower the first age of drug use.

Myth:

SCS prevent people from seeking treatment for substance use.

Fact:

SCS have been shown to increase engagement with healthcare and treatment for those who access the services.

Myth:

Implementing harm reduction services is expensive.

Fact:

Research demonstrates that harm reduction is cost effective and saves money through reduction in health care costs, reduction in disease transmission and reduced reliancce on emergency services. One study estimated $6 million in annual savings through the implementation of an SCS program.

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Myth:

SCS will increase crime rates in my community.

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Fact:

There is a strong body of international research that shows that SCS do not increase crime in the area surrounding the services, and have been associated with a reduction in petty crime.

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Myth:

Supervised consumption services provide illicit drugs to the people who use their services.

Fact:

People who use the services are required to bring their own drugs. SCS provide medical supplies and medical supervision while the drugs are being used.