Posted on Jun 18, 2020


EDMONTON -- Associate Minister Jason Luan personally intervened to prevent the launch of a potentially life-saving virtual health initiative yesterday.


Media reported that Alberta Health Services would have opened the phone lines today for a virtual supervised consumption service. Albertans using opioids at home would have been able to speak with a peer operator who would monitor their condition and send an ambulance if they overdosed. Instead, Luan halted plans for the three-year pilot project.


In a statement to the media, Luan said “I am deeply concerned about patient safety with a service of this nature. Considering the use of illicit narcotics while on the phone with a peer support worker as an appropriate medical intervention is frankly dangerous.”


Luan has a long history of opposing harm reduction and supervised consumption services. In 2019, he froze funding for service expansion, and convened a panel to review the community impacts of SCS in Alberta which was specifically prohibited from considering the benefits of the services. Luan has also been forced to retract statements promoting bizarre internet conspiracy theories about supervised consumption services.


“For Luan to say this is about safety is completely dishonest,” said Heather Sweet, NDP Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addiction. “It’s ridiculous to suggest an Albertan using opioids by themselves in their home is safer without someone monitoring their condition who can dispatch help if needed. This is about Luan and Premier Jason Kenney’s personal prejudice against these Albertans, and their refusal to look at the overwhelming medical evidence that supervised consumption services save lives.


“The government has always claimed its hostility to supervised consumption is driven by community concerns. But here we have a program that has zero impact on the community and they still stopped it,” Sweet said.


According to government data, 142 Albertans died of an opioid overdose in the first three months of 2020, a 14 per cent increase over the previous quarter.


“Luan has no medical training,” Sweet said. “He is politically meddling in a clinical program and he must get out of the way. This program will save lives and should be restarted immediately.”