So far this year Red Deer is the deadliest city in Alberta when it comes to fentanyl.
Red Deer has the highest rate of fentanyl-related deaths at 37.3 per 100,000 population with 10 deaths in the first three months of 2018, according to Alberta Health’s recently released Opioids and Substances of Misuse 2018 Q1 report released Tuesday.
Mayor Tara Veer said opioid related death numbers in the City of Red Deer have been consistently high.
The city had the highest fatality rate for the entire year in 2016 with 23 deaths. Red Deer had dropped to the second highest rate 25 deaths in 2017.
Across the province, a total of 139 deaths were related to fentanyl in the first quarter of 2018. Lethbridge had the second highest rate at 32.1 with eight deaths. Calgary had 72 deaths with a rate of 21.6. Edmonton saw 43 deaths with a rate of 17.4.
A comparison of health zones showed Central Alberta had the second highest rate at 13.9 with 17 fentanyl-related deaths. Calgary Zone had the highest rate at 18.1 with 75.
Between January to March, Alberta witnessed 158 accidental overdose deaths related to fentanyl. Eighty eight per cent of these deaths were in urban municipalities: Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.
“It’s no surprise that larger urban municipalities continue to experience the highest rate of deaths,” said Veer.
“I think (Red Deer numbers are) consistent geographically as well as other trends we see among other Alberta municipalities,” said Veer.
Veer said the city has paved the way at the municipality level by passing bylaws such as the one on Monday night, which will allow for a mobile supervised consumption site to operate within city limits.
Now it comes down to Alberta Health Services or AHS agencies such as Turning Point and Safe Harbour Society to apply for a federal exemption application – something not in the hands of city council – she said.
A federal government exemption is needed to operate a safe consumption site upon which illegal drugs can be consumed legally under supervision.
“The timing of that particular process (federal government exemption) is in the hands of the provincial government, its agencies and the the government of Canada,” she said.
Veer said council pursued the mobile option given the urgency for the need of service in Red Deer.
She said a long-term permanent location can still be pursued.
She said Red Deer Hospital Regional Centre is available for both permanent site or a mobile safe consumption site, “much like AHS delivered at the Sheldon Chumir Centre in Calgary.”