Edmonton Firefighters Join the Fight Against Opioid Addiction

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Opioid Addiction - image: depositphotos.com
Opioid Addiction - image: depositphotos.com

Edmonton – LIVING – Firefighters in Edmonton are joining the fight against opioid overdose by supporting immediate access to addiction treatment and supporting families.

Albertans in Edmonton struggling with opioid addiction can now visit their local fire station and immediately connect with the newly expanded Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) to start treatment. The VODP will then conduct an intake assessment and work with the individual to determine the most appropriate medication treatment. This includes gold standard opioid treatment medications like Suboxone and the recently announced Sublocade injection.

“Firefighters are an integral part of the community response to addiction and we are well-positioned to engage with the community and help connect them with treatment. As part of a comprehensive recovery-oriented continuum of care, everyone should be able to quickly and efficiently connect with life-saving services. Edmonton Fire Rescue Services are proud to partner with Alberta’s government and Alberta Health Services to expand access to care for Edmontonians,” says Joe Zatylny, chief, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services.

Families of substance users can also attend their local fire hall to receive information about family support and be connected with Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Society. PEP Society is a provincial resource for families struggling with a loved one’s substance use.

This initiative was made possible because Alberta’s government is providing $1.4 million annually to expand and create a low-barrier/harm reduction division of the VODP. This division will do rapid assessment and treatment initiations for those struggling with addiction and opioid use, and will also provide enhanced case management for clients in the community. Total provincial funding for the VODP is now $6.4 million annually.

“The recovery-oriented system of care we’re building is ensuring that Albertans have access to options for treatment and recovery everywhere they turn. Fire stations are a trusted presence across Edmonton and firefighters are well-positioned to support individuals and families who are struggling with addiction to access treatment and supports. This innovative new initiative will connect more people with life-saving addiction treatment and recovery options.” states Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“Parents Empowering Parents is proud to partner with Alberta’s government in their commitment to a comprehensive recovery-oriented system of care. As family members of people with addiction, we know how challenging it can be to try and help a loved one get the care they need while also taking care of yourself. We are here for families in Edmonton and across Alberta who have loved ones living with the illness of addiction,” adds Lerena Greig, executive director, Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Society.

“The Virtual Opioid Dependency Program is well-positioned to do this work and help Albertans anywhere in Alberta access treatment. Connecting with Edmonton Fire will ensure that more people can access life-saving opioid treatment medications. This initiative is part of a comprehensive recovery-oriented system of care that will save lives,” says Dr. Nathaniel Day, medical director, Virtual Opioid Dependency Program, Alberta Health Services.

Thanks to a provincial grant of $100,000, Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Society was able to create a provincial toll-free line to support families across Alberta. Any family member of someone struggling with addiction can contact Parents Empowering Parents by calling 1-877-991-2737 and connect with a professional on days, evenings and weekends. This toll-free line, however, is not a crisis line. If you are in crisis, please call 911.

Emergency response representatives and community partners were also involved in the development of the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS), a mobile app designed to help protect Albertans from a fatal overdose. The app is currently available in Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding communities.