Three people died from opioid overdoses in Red Deer in April, according to the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System (Black Press file photo)

Three people died from opioid overdoses in Red Deer in April, according to the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System (Black Press file photo)

Fewer opioid-related deaths in Red Deer in April

‘Unfortunately one month does not signify a trend’

Opioid deaths in Red Deer were almost cut in half in April, according to the latest provincial statistics.

Three deaths were reported in the city in April, compared to seven in March.

Natasha Stagg, clinical manager at Turning Point, said it’s good to see a decline in overdose deaths, but three people still died in April.

“Unfortunately, one month does not signify a trend and we have seen many drastic dips like this in the past that have actually been followed by an increase in opioid poisoning deaths in the following month,” said Stagg in a statement.

For example, the rate of opioid poisoning deaths per 100,000 was 42.9 in April 2021, then dropped to a rate of 10.7 in May, before climbing back up to a rate of 75.0 in June, she said.

“There are a wide variety of support options available for people who use substances, but the reality is that the contaminated drug supply creates unpredictability for all people using substances, recreationally or people living with a substance use disorder.”

In the first four months of 2022, Red Deer lost 22 people to overdose deaths.

Related:

Red Deer reports high number of opioid deaths to start 2022

The decline in local deaths mirrors what is happening provincially. The Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System showed that across the province there were 113 deaths in April, down from 122 in March.

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis said the provincial government remains “cautiously optimistic” about the seven per cent drop in opioid-related deaths in April.

“This also represents a decrease of 34 per cent since the provincial peak in November,” Ellis said in a statement.

“While this decrease is encouraging news, there are still too many people losing their lives to addiction. We must remain vigilant.”

He said that’s why Alberta is we’re continuing to build a recovery-oriented system of addiction and mental health care focused on increasing access to a continuum of services, from prevention and intervention to treatment and recovery.

“I encourage everyone who needs help to reach out. Call the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program to start treatment right away. Albertans can also contact 211 Alberta, or visit recoveryaccessalberta.ca, for information on resources and treatment options in their community.”

NDP health critic David Shepherd said while he was thankful fewer Albertans died in April, more lives could have been saved during the opioid crisis.

“There are proven healthcare interventions that save lives, but the UCP have actually reduced access to them. This government’s failure to properly respond to this crisis is costing lives, costing taxpayers, and using up already scarce resources in our overburdened ambulance and hospital systems,” Shepherd said in a statement.

Related:

App to help prevent fatal drug overdoses available province-wide

Ellis said Alberta’s portion of the $150-million settlement reached on Wednesday with opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma Canada will be re-invested into funding more mental health and addiction services.

He said the addiction crisis began years ago with the high rate of opioid prescriptions for acute and chronic pain.

“We are committed to holding opioid manufacturers, distributors and marketers accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, which continues to have devastating impacts on Albertans,” Ellis said.

Stagg said the lawsuit recognizes that no amount of money can bring back the people who have died.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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