Behind the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre sits an unassuming trailer. People walk by it every day, but what many may not know is that it’s actively saving the lives of Calgarians.

Safeworks is a harm reduction program that has been responding to drug use in Calgary for years, by handing out clean needles and connecting addicts to things like health care and social services.

Safeworks not only provides users with Naloxone — a potentially life-saving drug that can temporarily reverse opioid overdose — but also provides a space to consume drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals.

In 2016, 343 deaths due to Fentanyl overdose were reported in Alberta alone. In 2017 these numbers continue to rise, claiming around two lives per day.

“All of the services that offer this type of support train people in how to reduce the risk of overdose,” says Leslie Hill, executive director at HIV Community Link, “so encouraging people to use a small amount of their substance, wait a period of time and then use more.”

Harm reduction services will take place inside the parking lot of the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre until renovations are complete. Photo by Cassandra Woods.

Hill also says that strategies can be applied to people using outside of the service, by encouraging people to never use alone and when using with others, to not all use at the same time.

“I think a lot of people have been touched by either someone in their lives or someone they know who’s been impacted by the loss.” – Peter Oliver

The centre is located in the Beltline community and has been operational since the beginning of November. Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association says that most people were satisfied with the consultation process that occurred when the site was first proposed.

“I think what that shows is that people understand that this is actually a serious problem and I think a lot of people have been touched by either someone in their lives or someone they know who’s been impacted by the loss.”

The permanent centre is expected to open inside the Sheldon Chumir urgent care facility in early 2018.

cwoods@cjournal.ca

Editor: Emily Thwaites | ethwaites@cjournal.ca