News / Calgary

Report shows opioid deaths in Alberta still climbing

A grant worth $1.2 million was announced Wednesday that will cover renovations for a supervised consumption facility in Calgary's Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre

According to new numbers also revealed Wednesday, 119 people died from an apparent fentanyl-related overdose in Alberta between April 1 and June 30 this year.

METRO FILE

According to new numbers also revealed Wednesday, 119 people died from an apparent fentanyl-related overdose in Alberta between April 1 and June 30 this year.

The rising number of Albertans dying from fentanyl-related overdoses shows no sign of slowing down, according to a report released by the province on Wednesday.

In the first six months of this year, just five fewer people died from a fentanyl-related overdose than all of 2015 – 241 and 247, respectively.

Calgary continues to be hit hardest by the crisis, with a rate of 13.1 fentanyl-related deaths per 100,000 people in the most recent quarter. The provincial average is 11.3.

“The big concern is that we’re not making progress … we need to be focusing more education and information around fentanyl as a lethal, very addictive substance,” said Liberal health critic and MLA for Calgary-Mountainview, Dr. David Swann. “This is a serious, serious crisis in Alberta. We need to do better.”

Last year, 368 lives in Alberta were claimed by the drug, which is prescribed legally for pain and often diverted to the illegal drug market.

Even more potent analogues are showing up on the streets of Canada faster than toxicologists can identify them.

Also on Wednesday, Alberta Health announced $1.2 million to renovate what they hope will be Calgary’s first supervised consumption site at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre downtown.

Supervised consumption services are facilities for people to use drugs in a medically supervised environment, allowing health care providers to administer overdose-reversing agents such as Naloxone within moments and providing a point-of-access to additional mental health and addiction supports.

Five engagement sessions about the proposed site held so far have been positive for the most part, according to Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne.

“There’s a real understanding of the need for (these) services,” the associate minister said. “Some of the questions we’ve been hearing around around the public safety component … but we think (this) is going to help address some of the community impacts that we see from drug use in our neighbourhoods.”

She said the province is doing everything they can to expedite the application process, but Health Canada has yet to make a final approval.

Sites in Victoria, Montreal, Surrey, Ottawa and Toronto have been approved this year and Calgary’s application, in addition to Edmonton and Lethbridge, is being reviewed.

“At this point I can’t really commit on a timeline, but we’re certainly doing everything in our power to make sure the site is open as soon as possible,” Payne said, adding she sees no reason for the application to be denied.

Swann said it should have been approved already.

"This is supposed to be a national emergency. These approvals should be within weeks of application. This is not rocket science,” he said.

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