Red Deer had the lowest fentanyl-related fatality rate in the province for the first six months of the year, according to the latest Alberta Health statistics.
Five people died from fentanyl-related overdoses in the city.
Stacey Carmichael, executive director of the harm reduction agency Turning Point, said overdose prevention sites or supervised consumption sites, naloxone distribution, and easier access to treatment are making a difference.
“I like to think the various strategies we put in place in Red Deer, and across the province, are helping,” Carmichael said.
Between Oct. 1 2018 and Aug. 31, 2019, 564 people made a total of 33,007 visits to Turning Point’s overdose prevention site where staff intervened in 848 overdoses.
Since the site has been opened 24 hours a day, visits average about 140 per day.
“It’s busy. There’s always someone in there using the service,” she said about the site that has four booths for clients.
The 2019 second quarter Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report showed Red Deer’s rate of fentanyl-related deaths was 9.2 as of June. Grand Prairie had the highest rate at 51 (19 deaths), followed by Lethbridge at 22.5 (11 deaths).
In 2018, 46 people died in Red Deer, and by the end of that year, the city’s fatality rate was 42.8 which was the highest rate among Alberta’s largest communities.
In recent months, fentanyl deaths were on the decline in the province, until the second quarterly report when 153 were reported, up from 135 in the first quarter.
Carmichael said it can only take one bad batch of drugs for fatalities to climb.
The report explained that in 83 per cent of the fentanyl-related poisonings, at least one other substance contributed to the death. Most frequently that drug was methamphetamine (51 per cent) and cocaine (25 per cent).
“We can never have enough awareness, or information, out there,” she said about the possibility of fentanyl-tainted drugs.
For the first six months of the year, EMS responded 56 to opioid-related events in Red Deer. In 2018, EMS responded to 212 throughout the year.
“EMS calls are down for Red Deer which is great because we know they are busy,” Carmichael said.