Red Deer is once again in the unenviable position of having the highest rate of deaths in Alberta from fentanyl and other opioids.
As of the end of September, 31 people had died from fentanyl in Red Deer in 2018, a rate of 38.5 per 100,000 people. Two people died from other opioids.
In 2016 and 2017, there were 23 fentanyl-related deaths each year.
The Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report, released this week, also showed fentanyl deaths in Alberta Health Services’ central region declined to 12 in the third quarter from 19 in the second quarter.
Fentanyl deaths across the province dropped to 158 in the third quarter from 167.
“Despite the fact that it’s a slight decrease from the second quarter, I think it’s really imperative that we don’t lose sight of the fact that so far in Red Deer, 33 lives have been lost this year,” said Sarah Fleck, clinical manager of the harm reduction agency Turning Point.
She said some people believe deaths have reached a plateau, but the province is still in the midst of an opioid crisis.
“I think it’s easy when people hear the word plateau to lose that sense of urgency, which I think is crucial that we don’t lose. Two (Albertans) are still dying every day.”
So far in 2018, 523 Albertans have died from opioid poisoning.
She said continuing the conversation matters, and so does decreasing shame to encourage people to seek help.
Fleck said in the last month, there have been waves of exceptionally potent opioids coming through the city and increased overdoses associated with them.
Since the overdose prevention site opened Oct. 1, staff have provided medical intervention during 76 suspected opioid overdoses. Drug booths have been used 2,946 times, and 189 people have visited the site.
Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, AHS’s central zone’s medical officer of health, said she looks forward to the next quarterly report that coincides with the opening of the overdose prevention site.
“I’m much more hopeful this will look better by January, when the last quarter data is released,” Achebe said.