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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said there’s a “worrying trend” of prescription opioids seeping into the illegal market as she announced two new organizations to help those struggling with addiction. 

Last month, Ottawa refused the Alberta government’s request to put chemical trackers in B.C.’s safe supply drugs to identify those drugs. 

Smith says B.C. has a right to develop its own policy, but she has to ensure Alberta isn’t dealing with the fallout from it. 

“There are a percentage of clients on safe supply who sell their drugs to a drug dealer so they can get fentanyl and then those drugs become available on the illicit market,” Smith said at a press conference in Calgary on Tuesday.  “So that’s what we’re trying to get a handle on.” 

The premier also announced the creation of Recovery Alberta, which will become the provincial health agency responsible for mental health and addiction services currently delivered by Alberta Health Services. 

The second new organization, the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence, will conduct research and program evaluations, provide advice to the government on international best practices, and develop standards of practice on mental health and addiction.

“Alberta already leads the country in supporting recovery from mental health and addiction challenges, and the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence will further support this work,” Smith said.  “Today’s announcement of these two organizations marks an important step forward in transforming our health care system.” 

Smith said Recovery Alberta will be established through legislation to be introduced this spring. Operations are expected to pass from Alberta Health Services by July 1. 

Those receiving mental health care through Alberta Health Services will continue accessing those services in the same manner. The province is currently working on the transition for employees moving from Alberta Health Services to Recovery Alberta. 

The announcement follows the United Conservative Party government’s long-standing efforts to offer recovering addicts a recovery-oriented system of care which prioritizes treatment over so-called safe supply. 

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Dan Williams said the UCP government has been working on Alberta’s recovery model for the past five years. 

“These investments are making a difference and setting an example for others to follow what truly will have a recovery oriented system of care,” he said. 

Williams also said Recovery Alberta will be the largest provider of services across the province, with $1.13 billion in funding currently supporting the mental health and addiction services. 

An average of four Albertans died from overdoses every day last year, breaking the previous record set in 2021, according to data from the provincial government.

Smith had an emergency meeting with officials in B.C. last month after a massive drug seizure by RCMP reportedly contained some prescription opioids from “safe supply” programs. The Prince George drug bust seized more than 10,000 pills, including the highly addictive morphine and hydromorphone.

At the time, Smith said Alberta had been warning for years that high-potency opioids from these programs could be diverted and trafficked across Canada and cause irreparable harm and death in communities across the country.

“Unfortunately, that does not stop organized criminals from bringing it here illegally from other provinces,” she said.