SafeLink Alberta Advocates for Harm Reduction as New Data Reveals Record-High Drug Poisonings 

Alisha OstbergNews

As a leading organization dedicated to reducing the harms associated with sexual activity and substance use, SafeLink Alberta emphasizes the importance of harm reduction in response to the recent release of the substance use surveillance system’s data.  

The findings indicate that April 2023 witnessed the highest number of drug poisonings deaths in Calgary’s history. SafeLink Alberta firmly believes that harm reduction is a life-saving approach and urges stakeholders to embrace diverse perspectives when addressing this complex issue. 

“The opioid poisoning crisis has caused immense suffering and loss of life in the province, underscoring the need for an inclusive and compassionate response that prioritizes the well-being and dignity of all affected individuals,” says Katie Ayres, Executive Director SafeLink Alberta. 

Recovery-oriented systems of care play a vital role in supporting individuals on their journey toward long-term recovery and healing. These systems provide essential services, including detox, counselling, and access to appropriate treatment options, which are critical for individuals seeking to overcome addiction. SafeLink Alberta recognizes the value of these resources and emphasizes that harm reduction measures do not undermine or neglect these services but complement them. 

“Harm reduction measures, such as supervised consumption sites, naloxone distribution programs, and the provision of safer consumption supplies, have proven effective in preventing deaths and reducing the spread of infectious diseases,” says Ayres. 

SafeLink Alberta advocates for the embrace of harm reduction, which prioritizes immediate safety and well-being while working toward long-term solutions. It is important to note that embracing harm reduction does not imply condoning or promoting drug use but acknowledges the urgent need to save lives and provide support and treatment opportunities. By fully embracing and integrating all possible solutions and involving stakeholders with diverse opinions, SafeLink Alberta aims to create a comprehensive strategy that addresses the opioid poisoning crisis from multiple angles. This inclusive approach fosters collaboration, evidence-based decision-making, and ensures that all perspectives are considered. 

“I have observed a rhetoric that increasingly polarizes the recovery-oriented system of care and harm reduction measures.  I urge our media and government to embrace a different way of responding to this crisis by placing value and resources behind evidence-based measures that will both save lives and support folks on a journey to recovery. It is in the best interest of the folks we serve that our Governments, Health Care System, and non-profit sector come together and decide to integrate all possible solutions to this crisis,” says Ayres.  

Additionally, SafeLink Alberta supports the decriminalization of substances in Canada and calls for the provision of low-barrier access to safe drug supply at the national level. The organization also advocates for the expungement of previous convictions related to personal drug possession, equitable access to harm reduction services, prevention programs that address social determinants of health and inequities, anti-stigma and public awareness campaigns, and a National Strategy to address problematic substance use throughout Canada. 

Individuals who use substances or seek more information can contact SafeLink Alberta at, visit, or visit one of the drop-in centers in Calgary or Medicine Hat between 1 and 4 p.m.