Opioid deaths spiked in Red Deer during January to the second-highest rate among Alberta communities, according to the latest provincial statistics.
The Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System shows Red Deer had six opioid-related deaths in January compared to three each in November and December.
The rate of deaths in January in Red Deer was 63.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
“These are not just numbers, they are people who lived in our community, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, friends. Each loss is mourned by the people closest to them,” said Sarah Fleck, clinical manager of Turning Point’s Overdose Prevention Site (OPS).
In January, Alberta had 158 opioid deaths, an average of five deaths each day, for a provincial rate of 41.4.
Lethbridge had the highest rate of overdose deaths at 118.4.
“Alberta continues to have unprecedented overdose deaths related to opioid poisoning,” Fleck said.
She said staff at the OPS responded to 150 overdoses in January which is a substantial number and reinforces the data showing overdose numbers and overdose deaths were high in Red Deer.
“The OPS remains busy, seeing approximately 100 client visits per day, often experiencing bursts of overdoses as the illicit drug supply remains unpredictable,” Fleck said.
The OPS also provides harm reduction education and alerts clients about problematic drugs that may be circulating.
She said the latest reported deaths are a reminder of the importance of creating open spaces for conversations about substance use, mental health and available supports. Most deaths happen in homes, where people are often alone, and stigma inhibits whether people will access help, and how.
Naloxone, which is a safe and effective way to respond to opioid overdoses, is available in most community pharmacies or at Turning Point, along with Naloxone training.
2021 was Alberta’s deadliest overdose year on record with 1,758 deaths.
Last year Red Deer had 40 drug overdose deaths, compared to 49 in 2020.