Drug overdoses took 40 lives last year in Red Deer – Red Deer Advocate

Alberta saw a 29 per cent increase in drug overdose deaths in 2021, making it the deadliest year on record with 1,758 deaths, including 40 in Red Deer.

Red Deer actually had fewer drug-related deaths compared to the 49 lives lost in 2020.

But Sarah Fleck, clinical manager of Turning Point’s Overdose Prevention Site in Red Deer, said there were a significant number of overdoses in January and February 2022.

“Unfortunately our reduced rates won’t continue once the next report comes out,” Fleck said.

Alberta Health data shows that the last four months of 2021 were the deadliest months for the province, says the NDP.

“I am truly sickened to think of how many Alberta families have been plunged into grief over the past year. These deaths were preventable. There are proven health-care interventions that save lives, and the UCP is reducing access to them,” said Lori Sigurdson, NDP critic for mental health and addictions.

Related:

Contaminated street drugs causing a spike in overdoses in Red Deer

On Friday, the province announced that access to the Digital Overdose Response System was expanded in southern Alberta to help prevent fatal drug overdoses, particularly those using at home alone. It’s an app that alerts emergency responders if a person using substances becomes unresponsive to a pre-set timer.

“Today’s announcement clearly shows that while there is no one solution to the illness of addiction, there are innovative approaches that we can expand and improve on. We are ensuring that Albertans have access to the resources they need to stay alive, access treatment no matter where they are, and begin their pursuit of recovery and a better life,” said Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction.

Related:

Opioid-related death rate climbs in Red Deer

Fleck said 50 per cent of deaths in Red Deer occur in people’s homes. The National Overdose Response Service, which is a peer-run, peer-led overdose prevention hotline at 1-888-688-NORS, is a good option if people use it alone.

She said a multifaceted approach to the crisis is needed that includes increasing access to overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption sites and critical wrap-around services, improved access to opioid agonist therapy, as well as decreased wait times and barriers for detox and treatment.

Increased community awareness about the unpredictability of the contaminated drug supply is necessary because about 60 percent of deaths in Alberta involve methamphetamine, and 25 percent involve cocaine.

It’s also important that anybody who uses any drug feels like they can have open conversations, she said.

“I think that only happens by having community conversation and having increased compassion towards our friends and family, our neighbors and our community members. The decrease in stigma and shame will absolutely save lives,” Fleck said.

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com
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