Red Deer will be the site of the first of five new addiction recovery communities in the province.
“These recovery communities are a continuation of our efforts at creating 4,000 addiction treatment spaces in the province and building a full continuum of care for people struggling with addiction,” Premier Jason Kenney said Saturday during a visit to the city.
The new $5 million, 75-bed facility, which will likely be built in the city’s north end, is outside the primary urban centre.
The deal to acquire the land is not yet finalized, but Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said that is expected in the next 10 to 14 days.
The government said it hopes to have shovels in the ground on the new facility before winter hits.
“Our friends, family and neighbours suffering from addiction will have a place to go that’s close to home. We will continue to work with this government hand in hand as we build out further supports for the people of Red Deer,” Veer said.
While she was encouraged by the government’s announcement, Kath Hoffman, executive director at Safe Harbour Society, said the province needs to build on the care that’s already happening in the community.
“We want to make sure that that continuum of care they talked about continues to play out for people on the ground, for people who are still actively using and not ready for recovery. We know that that connection is the most important thing we can do,” she said.
“Our connections with people is to make sure they can stay alive and make it to recover. Our reality is there are people walking around all the time that are actively using. We have to pay attention and make sure they are not ignored.”
Recovery communities are also known as therapeutic communities and are a form of residential treatment for addiction. Supporters of these facilities regard recovery as a gradual, ongoing process of cognitive change through clinical and peer interventions.
Over a six to 12 month period, residents advance through the stages of treatment at their own pace, setting personal objectives and assuming greater responsibilities in the community along the way.
These recovery communities have been used in other parts of the world, and particularly, in Portugal.
“There is a widespread misunderstanding about the Portugues model… the reality is that there are legal consequences for people in Portugal who are arrested because of possession if they do not comply with alternatives,” he said.
“In fact, our government agrees with that approach, which is why we are expanding, as one of our platform commitments, alternative drug treatment courts.”
Kenney said his government’s model will take multi-tiered action to help individuals overcome drug addiction.
“I don’t think there’s any compassion in telling people they don’t have moral agency. There’s no compassion in telling people that recovery isn’t really possible for them,” he said.
“There’s not much compassion in facilitating the destructive nature of drug addiction. There is great compassion in offering a holistic alternative.”
Jason Luan, the associate minister of mental health and addictions, noted there is not yet an answer on how the government will fill the gap before the new facility is built, with funding set to expire on Red Deer’s overdose prevention site in September.