UPDATE: Turning Point Society has provided a statement regarding the transition.
Turning Point Society remains committed to prioritizing the well-being and safety of Central Albertans at the Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) following the provincial government’s unexpected announcement on February 3, 2023, to have Alberta Health Services (AHS) assume operations of the site.
“We will continue to provide the highest standard of service delivery throughout this possible transitional period to reduce the impact community members face,” said Turning Point Society Executive Director, Stacey Carmichael. “We were surprised by this decision and are still unsure of its rationale.”
While still determining the full impact a possible transition would have, Carmichael said the non-profit would continue to work closely with the Alberta government, the City of Red Deer, and community partners to come to the best solution.
“Turning Point Society has a 35-year relationship with our community, and it has taken time to create a safe environment for the vast population we serve,” said Carmichael, adding that a quick transition will likely create hesitation for clients accessing future services. “Should the operation of the OPS transition to AHS, it is critical the same capacity level is maintained, and the same services be provided.”
While working towards a permanent SCS site along with community partners, the harm reduction agency took on the operation of a temporary site on October 1, 2018. This was in response to community concerns about the rising rate of overdose fatalities in Central Alberta. Since opening, the OPS has had 168,957 site visits, and medical staff have responded to 5,490 adverse events.
“We have made significant strides in reducing the number of overdose fatalities in Central Alberta,” Carmichael said. “However, the data shows that the demand for the life-saving services offered through the OPS are just as essential today as they were when we opened.”
According to Carmichael, the 60 staff employed by Turning Point Society to operate the site are now grappling with the fate of their future employment and the fate of the clients they serve.
“It is unfortunate that our staff had to find out the way they did, and we will do our best to provide ongoing support and alleviate the impact of this decision in the months to come.”
Red Deer’s Turning Point Society will soon be operated by Alberta Health Services. Over the next three to six months, the Alberta Government will be working with AHS and Turning Point to make the transition to a mobile overdose prevention site operated by AHS.
The AHS-operated mobile unit will operated at the same location of the Turning Point.
Turning Point Society has been operating in the community of Red Deer since 2018. The service initally opened as a temporary health service.
Mayor Ken Johnston provided a statement about the transition today.
“On behalf of Red Deer City Council, I want to assure our citizens that we remain committed to working with the Province of Alberta to build Red Deer as a recovery community.
We appreciate the leadership of the Province of Alberta in this area. We thank Turning Point for their years of service and the lives saved over the past several years. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Red Deerians is a top priority, and we are confident this new AHS-Operated mobile site will continue to meet the needs of our residents,” said Johnston.
The Mayor also gave a formal apology to the Turning Point Society for how their staff learned of the transition.
“I also want to extend a formal apology to Turning Point and the service providers in our community who learned about transition after overhearing one of our City Council members talking with a provincial colleague about it in the community. We know this is unacceptable, and for that we apologize,” added Johnston in his statement.