Those suffering from opioid addiction will soon have somewhere close to home to seek treatment.
Last week, the province announced they would be opening an opioid dependency treatment clinic in Bonnyville by the end of June as part of their plan to tackle addiction across Alberta.
Medication-assissted treatment, such as methadone and Suboxone, and one-on-one video meetings with addictions specialists based out of Edmonton and Calgary, will be just some of the services available at the clinic.
“We know opioid dependency is a growing issue and Alberta Health Services (AHS), along with the government, is working to increase access and availability to substitution treatment, which we know is one of the best approaches to treating opioid addiction,” explained Sandra Corbett, interim north zone medical director for AHS. “By opening new clinics in southern and northern Alberta, what that will mean for the people of Bonnyville, is that patients will be able to access the supports including addictions services, counselling, as well as starting and maintaining substitution therapy basically at home.”
Once open, the clinic will be available to residents from across the region at the Bonnyville Provincial Building.
According to Corbett, patients can either be referred to the program by a healthcare provider, or they can self-refer by phoning the clinic directly.
AHS is expecting it to serve up to 150 patients annually.
“When they’re seen at the clinic, they will have a addiction medicine consultation. Then they will be able to start treatment and maintain treatment as appropriate,” Corbett detailed. “Initially, this will all be through telehealth, where the patient will actually be seen via video conference by a physician from either an opioid dependancy treatment clinic in Edmonton or Calgary.”
AHS will also be working closely with area physicians to support those who are interested in providing the service locally so engagement can continue.
Some physicians have expressed interest in taking part, Corbett said.
“We may eventually have more local physicians involved.”
Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman said in a release, “The opioid crisis is affecting communities across the province and we want to ensure that treatment is available, no matter where you live. Making sure families in northern Alberta have the supports they need for loved ones struggling with substance use is critical. By opening new treatment clinics in more rural or remote settings, hundreds more Albertans can receive treatment and counselling and move towards recovery and stability.”
Because it’s often impossible to know the source of the drug and what’s in it, in some cases opioid users are consuming fentanyl whether they’re aware of it or not.
Corbett explained, “The person doesn’t often know that there is fentanyl in the drug that they’re using, and that has caused many accidents and overdoses with opioids, including many deaths in the province. This is substituting the opioid to reduce the harm effect with either methadone or Suboxone, and it’s from a local pharmacy, so we know exactly what’s in the drug and how much of the opioid is there. It’s a safer option that can save lives.”