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City hopes to win $50 million in Smart Cities Challenge with new ‘Healthy City’ proposal

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Folllowing more than a year of research and community consultation, the City of Edmonton has submitted its proposal for the $50-million top prize in Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge. Using the theme ‘Healthy City,’ Edmonton’s proposal aims to help to city become a healthier, more connected place to live.
“Edmonton’s innovative Smart City approach to improve health addresses the true needs of the community through a collaboration between public sector organizations, private sector organizations and residents,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “This approach, enabled by technology, analytics and data, will bring Edmonton back to its roots — a place where all residents have equal opportunity to lead healthy lives.”
Incorporating feedback from Edmonton residents and partners, the proposal details the development and phased implementation of a Healthy City program, where the quality of life and well-being of residents will improve through changes to programs, policies and services at a municipal level.
In the fall of 2017, Infrastructure Canada announced the Smart Cities Challenge – an open competition to communities across the country to use data and connected technology to improve the lives of residents. In the spring of 2018, Edmonton was announced as one of five finalists in the competition’s $50-million category, competing against Vancouver/Surrey, Montreal, Quebec City and the Region of Waterloo.
Edmonton’s Smart Cities Challenge final proposal will be reviewed by a 13-person jury and members of the team will participate in a Finalist Showcase in Ottawa in May. Winners of the Smart Cities Challenge are expected to be announced later this spring.
The final proposal and finalist video are available at smartcities.edmonton.ca.

Alberta

Red Deer Recovery Community will offer hope for residents from Central Alberta and around the world

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Central Albertans won’t be the only ones paying close attention to the official opening of the Red Deer Recovery Community next month. According to Marshall Smith, Chief of Staff to Premier Danielle Smith, jurisdictions from across North America will be looking to the Red Deer Recovery Community for potential answers to their own issues. Red Deer Recovery Community will be the first of 11 the province is opening over the coming months.

Cities across North America and beyond have been battling an addictions crisis, and losing. As the number of homeless people and the number of fatal overdoses continues to rise, cities are looking for new solutions. After years of slipping further behind, Alberta has decided on a new approach to recovery and Marshall Smith has been leading the charge.

Smith is a recovering addict himself.  A political organizer from BC, he once worked for former Premier Gordon Campbell.  His own crisis started with alcohol, then moved to cocaine dependency before he eventually succumbed to methamphetamine use.  The successful political operative found himself without work and living on the street for over four years. Eventually he benefited from a 35 day stay in a publicly funded recovery centre in BC.

Former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney brought Smith to Alberta to head up the UCP’s addictions and recovery file.  His personal experiences and incredible comeback story are at the heart of Alberta’s new approach.

While the success of recovery programs vary, Marshall Smith and Dr. Christina Basedow of the Edgewood Health Network (operators of Red Deer Recovery Community) say with the right treatment and the right amount of time, they expect a very high rate of successful recoveries.  Smith says the province won’t give up on patients, even if some have to go through more than once.

The Recovery Community is central to this new approach, but patients who will be able to stay for up to a year, will need somewhere to go when they leave. This week the province also announced the Bridge Healing Transitional Accommodation Program in Edmonton.  This “second stage” housing will ensure former addicts have a place to stay upon leaving addiction treatment centres. This will be their home in the critical days following treatment when they need to reestablish their lives by finding work or educational opportunities.

Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston feels the 75 bed Recovery Community will be transformation for Central Alberta. Mayor Johnston says all Central Albertans will play an important role in helping former addicts when they leave the Recovery Community.

Construction of the Red Deer Recovery Community is all but complete.

Thursday, municipal and provincial politicians toured the facility and were introduced to the operators of the new facility. Dr Christina Basedow, Western VP of Edgewood Health Network teamed up with Nicholas Milliken, Alberta’s Mental Health and Addiction Minister, to take questions about operations.

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan, Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston, Dr. Christina Basedow, Minister Nicholas Milliken, Red Deer North MLA Adriana LaGrange

Premier Danielle Smith made the trip to Central Alberta to offer support for the project and see the facility first hand.

Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston and Premier Danielle Smith listen to Chief of Staff Marshall Smith 

Marshall Smith explains aspects of the Recovery Community to Premier Danielle Smith, Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston and Red Deer MLA’s Adriana LaGrange and Jason Stephan

In the days leading up to an official opening expected in February, Edgewood Health Network is finalizing the admission process which will see the first batch of up to 75 people suffering addictions moving into single and double occupied rooms.

Typical double occupancy room at Red Deer Recovery Community

The new 75-bed facility, will begin accepting residents battling addictions in February.  Those residents will stay for up to a full year accessing medications, programming and developing life skills.

In the meantime the province expects a recovery industry will be developing in Red Deer including second stage housing opportunities and counselling.

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Community

Ottawa paramedic leader says drug supply getting more toxic amid overdose crisis

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Ottawa paramedic leader Darryl Wilton says not a day went by in 2022 that didn’t include an overdose-related call.

He says that although overdose numbers in the Ottawa area have remained steady, the drug supply has become more toxic and antidotes such as Naloxone are becoming less effective.

Wilton, the president of the Professional Paramedic Association of Ottawa, says his team is increasingly seeing benzodiazepines such as valium being used with narcotics, a mix that can require intensive care in the hospital.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit, which serves communities just west of the city, put out an overdose alert Monday warning residents about “life-threatening” drugs circulating in the area.

The county’s acting medical officer of health says that last week, paramedics responded to four overdose calls, which is alarming for the area.

Some safe consumption sites in Ottawa say they are looking to expand their hours of operation, but they are already struggling to meet the demand for their services.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2023.

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