January 17th, 2021

Visitations increasing slowly at mobile OPS

By Jensen, Randy on September 5, 2020.

A man cleaning up garbage around the site walks past the new mobile supervised consumption site vehicle set up outside the Lethbridge shelter. Herald file photo by Ian Martens

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


While it has only been able to serve a limited number of clients since coming into operation on Aug. 17, according to Alberta Health Services the mobile overdose prevention unit is slowly gaining the trust of former clients of the ARCHES-run supervised consumption site.

Between Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, AHS confirms the new mobile OPS was able to serve about an average of 11 clients per day.

In contrast, during Aug. 17 to Aug. 23 time period, ARCHES served 426 for consumption site services, or approximately 60 clients per day, according to information provided to The Herald from other verified sources.

Since the closure of the SCS, the new OPS unit is now servicing about 36 visits per day, says AHS, and has not had to turn away any clients due to limited space or hours of operation.

“No one has been turned away for lack of space or hours of operation,” a statement from AHS confirms. “In some cases, clients have decided not to wait if the bus is full.”

It’s not a lack of capacity which has initially kept visits relatively low, says AHS.

“Clients are presenting as responsive, and are slowly building trust in the new environment.”

As of Friday, OPS staff have only had to reverse one overdose.

“AHS staff at the OPS have managed one overdose reversal which required naloxone,” AHS states, “and eight adverse events that required other supportive measures, since the unit began operations on Aug. 17.”

According to information provided to The Herald from other verified sources, during the last seven days in August the city had seven opioid-related EMS responses, six of which required naloxone, and four people were taken to hospital.

The overdose prevention unit, confirms AHS, has four staff working on site at any given time, with three shifts daily. The teams include a registered nurse, a primary-care paramedic, a peer support worker, and an addictions counsellor. The unit operates between 8 a.m. and 4 a.m. daily and is based near the Lethbridge Homeless Shelter. It offers additional wrap-around health and addictions services outside of supervised consumption.

“AHS offers supportive connections to various recovery-oriented resources,” AHS states. “This includes referrals to detoxification services, treatment programs, housing and other social supports. We additionally offer connections to the AHS outreach team, whose members can support Opiate Agonist Therapy initiation.”

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