Opioid-related deaths in Alberta fell 47 per cent in July since hitting their peak in late 2021, and Red Deer deaths continue to decline based on the latest statistics.
In July there were 92 opioid-related deaths in the province, an eight per cent reduction since June, and the lowest number on record since April 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.
Likewise, Red Deer had one opioid overdose death in July following three in June, three in May and four in April, seven in March, six in February and seven in January, according to the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System.
Natasha Stagg, clinical manager at central Alberta’s harm reduction agency Turning Point, said anytime there are fewer opioid poisoning deaths is a reason to be grateful, but historically there have been significant dips in deaths that then result in a spike.
“In May 2021, there was a significant dip followed by a substantial peak in June 2021. The illicit opioid supply is unpredictable and unstable and as a result, there are times when there will be decreases, but it is important to recognize that they do not yet indicate a trend,” Stagg said in a statement.
In the first seven months of this year, Alberta reported 884 opioid-related deaths, down from 846 during the same months in 2021. Central Alberta also saw fewer deaths at 60, down from 64. Red Deer had 31 deaths, up from 25 in 2021.
“While every life lost to addiction is one too many, the steady decline in opioid deaths in Alberta is a positive sign and we are optimistic it will continue,” said Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a statement.
“Now is the time to redouble our efforts to make it as easy as possible for Albertans to pursue recovery from addiction. We will continue working tirelessly to address the addiction crisis, reduce deaths even further, and make treatment and recovery as accessible as possible.”
In August, Red Deer’s overdose prevention site operated by Turning Point, had 3,212 visits by 238 different community members, and staff responded to and reversed 54 suspected overdoses.
But Stagg said the majority of people dying from opioid poisonings in Alberta are dying in their homes so the need to increase support and awareness continues.
In addition to the overdose prevention site, people can access the Digital Overdose Response System, a virtual app that summons emergency services (www.dorsapp.ca), and the National Overdose Response System, an overdose prevention hotline, available by calling 1-888-688-6677.
The Virtual Opioid Dependency Program is another option that provides same-day access by calling 1-844-383-7688, in addition to several options for opioid agonist therapy in Red Deer. Safe Harbour Society operates a medical detox, Alberta Health Services provides several addictions and mental health supports, and Red Deer Recovery Community and Red Deer Dream Centre are under construction to provide residential treatment.