Police in Lethbridge and Blood Reserve Offer Immediate Addiction Treatment on Arrest

Free of Addiction

LETHBRIDGE – HEALTH – Police officers in Lethbridge and on the Blood Tribe will now be able to offer immediate access to addiction treatment upon an individual’s arrest.

Alberta’s government continues to support the innovative approach of offering immediate access to addiction treatment upon an individual’s arrest. Through a partnership with Alberta’s Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) anyone arrested in Lethbridge and on the Blood Tribe will have the option of immediately consulting with an addiction medicine physician.

The Lethbridge Police Service will receive funding from Alberta’s government to hire two paramedics to further support this initiative.

“Albertans have yet another opportunity to choose treatment and recovery over a life in addiction. People who commit a crime must still be held accountable for their actions, but we can also treat addiction as a health-care issue at the same time. The recovery-oriented system of care we’re building is about ensuring Albertans across multiple systems have access to evidence-based treatment options when and where they need them.”

Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

“The illness of addiction has touched many people in our community. Our government continues to make investments in Lethbridge to ensure that treatment is available and that recovery is a real and attainable goal.”

Nathan Neudorf, MLA for Lethbridge-East

“We’re thrilled to see this collaborative approach come to our city to support the vulnerable members of our community who struggle with opioid addiction. This is a tangible way to help transition folks who want help onto the recovery path and hopefully onto a better future.”

Blaine Hyggen, mayor, City of Lethbridge

The VODP is available to all Albertans and thanks to previous investments from Alberta’s government, the program is able to provide treatment on demand. Any Albertan, anywhere in the province can get same day access to evidence-based medication treatment by calling 1-844-383-7688. In December 2021, Alberta became the first jurisdiction in Canada to integrate access to addiction treatment with municipal jails in Edmonton, Calgary, and some rural RCMP detachments. The program is now extended to Medicine Hat and Lethbridge and on the Blood Tribe.

“Treating addictions as a health issue while still holding people accountable, is paramount to community safety. The fusion between police and health to build and strengthen a recovery-focused continuum of care will give addicted individuals in our custody an immediate opportunity to choose treatment. We appreciate the Alberta government’s support to help us do more to better serve vulnerable residents.”

Shahin Mehdizadeh, chief, Lethbridge Police Service

“We look forward to helping more people address their addiction. Our detention units can be an uncomfortable place for those experiencing addiction cravings or withdrawals. Providing immediate treatment will hopefully not only alleviate that discomfort, but lead to long-term recovery.”

Brice Iron Shirt, chief, Blood Tribe Police Service

“Offering the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program in municipal jails is compassionate and will help those who are ready to start life-changing – and live-saving – treatment. People who want treatment should find recovery options wherever they turn. This program has a proven track record for helping address addiction and helps people live the full, healthy lives that they and their families want.”

Dr. Nathaniel Day, medical director, virtual opioid dependency program, Alberta Health Services

In addition, the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS), a mobile app designed to prevent fatal overdoses among Albertans using opioids and other substances often while alone, is now available for download and use by anyone in southern Alberta.

The DORS app can be downloaded to a smartphone free of charge from any app store or via DORSApp.ca. When using the app, Albertans will receive a call from the STARS emergency centre if they become unresponsive to a timer. If an overdose is suspected, STARS will immediately dispatch emergency medical services to the person’s location.

Alberta’s government is helping Albertans access life-saving addiction and mental health-related prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery resources. This includes supporting the addition of more than 8,000 new publicly funded treatment spaces; the elimination of daily user fees for publicly funded residential addiction treatment; a new patient matching tool, Recovery Access Alberta; and services to reduce harm, such as the DORS app, the introduction of a nasal naloxone pilotexpansion of opioid agonist therapy and fully covering the cost of the injectable opioid treatment drug Sublocade.

Quick facts

  • Administered by Alberta Health Services, the VODP is available throughout the province to all Albertans. People dependent on opioids are treated with opioid agonist therapy (OAT) drugs and provided with ongoing support and monitoring in an outpatient setting. When taken as prescribed, OAT drugs help a person function normally by managing withdrawal symptoms.
  • The VODP can be accessed by calling 1-844-383-7688. The toll-free line is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. There is no wait-list for the program.
  • The Digital Overdose Response System (DORS), a free mobile app designed to prevent fatal overdoses, is now available in the South Zone, as well as in the Edmonton and Calgary Zones.
    • Find the free, confidential app on the Apple and Google app store or visit DORSApp.ca.
    • The DORS app will continue to expand throughout 2022, and Alberta’s government has begun engaging with First Nations communities to assess interest in having the DORS app available on First Nations. Interested First Nations communities can contact Alberta Health at albertaaddictionandmentalhealth@gov.ab.ca.
    • Approximately 70 per cent of opioid-related deaths in Alberta occur in private residences, often among those using opioids or other substances while alone.
  • For additional support, information and referral to services, call Alberta 211 or the Addiction Helpline (1-866-332-2322) or visit recoveryaccessalberta.ca.
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