What’s happening at Safe Harbour?

Lots of great things!


We held a scaled down version of our Annual General Meeting last week and although we missed being at Fort Normandeau, the snow convinced us we were right to stay indoors.


We knew many people in attendance had questions about the Temporary Overdose Prevention Site trailer that had just landed in our parking lot, but the AGM is a review of the past year and so we needed to start there.


We highlighted our Detox program that began life as a “social” detox for our first 11 years. For those of you unfamiliar, there are two types of detox: social and medically supported. Back in the days before fentanyl showed up, the social detox model served our community well. However, we began to see the crisis coming and so did Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services. Through a fantastic collaborative effort including our front line staff, we made the shift to a Medically Supported Detox on November 1st, 2017. From that date to the end of August this year, we have detoxed 871 people.


That collaborative effort was a gift straight from God. What it meant for the people we serve and our staff team was that we would always have a Registered Nurse and an LPN on shift 24/7 inside the Harbour. Amazing, and not only that but a Doctor would be at the Harbour for an hour or two every single day.  This is the stuff dreams are made of.


The results have been outstanding. Kathy Schepp, head Nurse and program developer, came in and worked her magic. Dr Michael Mulholland, who was already “Harboured” and so enthusiastic about this service, started recruiting physicians who may be interested in shining their lights in this Harbour of ours. What a great passionate group he found.


Our previous detox team and leadership teams were true Harbour staff in their welcoming of this change. They knew well what it would mean for the people we serve and they were also relieved to have that medical support right there with them. Change brings choppy waters to the Harbour but our team navigated through admirably. I’m so grateful to be able to Captain such a crew.


This Medically Supported Detox is really great news for the broader community. You are able to know that people who need emergency health care are being served. As a parent you know your son or daughter is being monitored by a medical team. An extra bonus is that we as a community are saving a whole bunch of money!  This program frees up chairs in the waiting room at Emergency. It minimizes our calls to EMS and it is also frees up hospital beds!  Instead of us taxpayers paying 1500.00 a night at the hospital we save 1400.00 bucks because it only costs around 100 bucks to stay at the Harbour. Good deal hey, you can’t argue with that logic.


We save money again, in this circumstance. Right now buddy could come to detox and need the hospital to stabilize him for a bit. Before the medical detox was operating he would stay in the hospital for a few days to be monitored medically. Now what can happen is we can send buddy up for stabilization and then because there are nurses here who can monitor him, they can free up his hospital bed and send him to the Harbour as soon as he’s stabilized rather than taking up a bed there.

It is so great to have these exceptional collaborations at play daily at Safe Harbour. We are all learning so much from each other.


Currently, we have a new trailer in our parking lot. It arrived on Wednesday morning last week. Once again Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services have responded to the crisis we see around us every day by empowering and resourcing Turning Point to respond temporarily in the safest way possible for everyone.

As with any crisis, first things first, we have to go pick up the wounded. That’s all we need to say about that because I still believe we are a community who responds appropriately to crisis.


Will this Temporary Overdose Site clean up the community and make all our troubles go away? Of course not, but what it will do is ensure that those people who are “choosing” to use don’t have to die while they are doing it. Dead people don’t go to treatment.


This initiative is a small but necessary drop in a big bucket, but without question it is a move in the right direction.

Like the Medically Supported Detox, the Temporary Overdose site comes with resources we’ve never had before such as:

  • a security staff on the property every hour it’s open dedicated to managing the property in collaboration with a harm reduction staff
  • increased lighting in the parking lot,
  • a site liaison to monitor foot traffic between Safe Harbour and Turning Point
  • Needle debris cleanup will be enhanced
  • Most importantly for us there will be a safer place for people to inject than across the street where they used to be


Safe Harbour was always supporting Turning Point as the ideal location for these safe consumption services. We stood by the voices of the people actively using who said Turning Point was the best place to be and we knew that a high percentage of overdoses are happening in our downtown. However once we knew that Little Gaetz would never be considered for these types of services and with the recent announcement from the Minister of Health on Red Deer having the highest overdose rate in the province per 100,000 people, we knew we had to help where we could.


This Temporary Prevention Site is necessary whether we like to believe it or not. Ask any loved one of an addict who is injecting. They ache for their loved ones to come back from the brink of death, as we all would.


Much more needs to happen to make the difference we all want to see in Red Deer. Stay tuned for an invitation to lend your voice.


Until next time and in true Captain fashion,

Steady as she goes.