About 200 people turned out for Turning Point’s 30th anniversary barbecue held Wednesday.
“Today is Turning Point’s 30th anniversary, so we thought what better way to celebrate then to have a barbecue for the community. We’ve served well over 200 hamburgers thanks to M&M Meats,” said Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Turning Point (formerly the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society).
Turning Point serves the Alberta Health Service Central Zone — a service area which is the second largest in Alberta with a population of more than 453,469.
“We’re having great conversations — talking a lot about what we’ve done over the last 30 years, which is responding to the health needs of communities and what we hope to do for the next 30 years,which is to continue to respond to those needs.”
These days, the focus is on establishing supervised consumption services in Red Deer, and Carmichael said she is optimistic about the ongoing conversations about that particular issue.
“I’m happy we are having these conversations and I’m optimistic we are going to get it right in this community,” she said.
“We are still responding to the prevention of sexually transmitted and blood-b0rne infections. We are happy to be part of this community.”
She also pointed to the many projects and services that the organization has spearheaded over the years.
“I’m really happy to be a part of Turning Point and I also had the opportunity to work alongside them for many years prior to coming to work for them,” she said.
“I’m proud of the accomplishments that we have made and the things we’ve helped bring to this community.”
That includes the methadone program, street clinics, Safe Harbour Society and NightReach, she said.
“Our programs continue to meet the needs of folks in our community,” she said. “I’m really proud of the work that we do and the staff that we have.”
Carmichael said that the day of the barbecue also marked the launch of a new web site about supervised consumption services – www.scsreddeer.com.
“Folks can go online and learn more about what it is we are trying to do – it’s a really great web site full of research and all sorts of things. We built it just for this (supervised consumption services).
“We are going to continue doing what we are doing, our harm reduction programming throughout the Central Zone, and still promote safer sex practices and also support vulnerable people in our community,” she said, adding the hard work towards alleviating the ongoing opioid crisis continues as well.
According to Turning Point, in 2011 there were six fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta; in 2016 there were 358 deaths and in 2017 there were 562 deaths in the province.
In 2016, Red Deer had the highest rate of fentanyl and opioid related deaths of any city in the province, and the rate continues to rise.
For Carmichael, marking the anniversary proved a meaningful way of connecting with friends and the organization’s associates both past and present as well.
“I was really proud of our turn-out today, and happy to see the mayor and council come out and celebrate with us, along with a variety of community agencies and people that were a part of Turning Point when it was CAANS (Central Alberta AIDS Network Society). So it’s been a really great day.”