Red Deer had 25 opioid-related deaths in the first seven months of this year.
The Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System, updated this month, showed five deaths in January, four in February, three in March, and four in April, one in May, seven in June and one in July.
Red Deer had the second highest opioid death rate at 75.0 per 100,000 people in June. That same month, Grande Prairie had the highest rate at 78.7, with five deaths.
Stacey Carmichael, executive director of Red Deer’s Harm Reduction agency Turning Point, said it’s unfortunate there is no downward trend.
“It’s fairly inconsistent in the numbers from month to month. It’s hard to predict and a lot of it has to do with that illicit drug supply. Sometimes you get a bad batch and it ends up causing several overdoses. Contamination is unpredictable,” Carmichael said.
In 2020, Red Deer lost 56 lives to overdoses, and 24 died in 2019.
She said the 2021 tally so far is scary, and majority of overdose deaths in the province are people between the ages of 24 and 44.
“That’s a lot of people in the prime of their lives. Probably all of those deaths were preventable and that makes it extra devastating.”
Across the province 821 people have died since January, with fentanyl involved in 94 per cent of accidental opioid deaths.
Carmichael said thankfully over 6,000 overdose reversals were reported this year. The death toll would have been a lot higher if it wasn’t for people becoming educated about naloxone.
“Those are people reversing overdoses. They have naloxone and they’re reversing overdoses in their homes, or wherever. That’s substantial.”
She said participation in opioid dependency therapy has also grown so there are a lot of pieces pulling together.
“We haven’t found the sweet spot yet. There’s no downward trend happening, but it’s important that we maintain what we’re doing.”
Red Deer’s overdose prevention site, operated by Turning Point, saw 243 visitors and had 7,253 visits in the second quarter of 2021.
Carmichael said the site’s four booths are not enough, but recently the site got its licence from the province to continue operating.
“We’re not able to often meet the needs of everyone that needs us, but we’re doing our best. It’s definitely serving its purpose.”