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Red Deer sees highest rate of fentanyl deaths

47 fentanyl-related deaths in 2018
Executive director Stacey Carmichael had boxes of syringes piled high in her office, one of the harm reduction supplies available from Turning Point. (File photo by Advocate staff)

The rate of people dying from fentanyl overdoses in Red Deer doubled in 2018, and so did the number of deaths, which climbed to 47 from 23.

At a rate of 43.8 per 100,000 population, Red Deer was once again the community with the highest rate of fentanyl deaths in Alberta, according to the Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report for the fourth quarter of 2018.

Grande Prairie had the second highest rate at 31, with 23 deaths. Calgary’s rate was 21.9, with 292 deaths. Edmonton’s rate was 18.3, with 181 deaths.

In 2017, Grande Prairie had the highest provincial rate at 36.4. In 2016, Red Deer topped all other communities with a rate of 21.4.

Stacey Carmichael, Turning Point’s executive director, said the report demonstrates Red Deer is still on an upward trend.

“We cannot become complacent and we still have a lot of work to do,” Carmichael said on Wednesday.

“I’m optimistic that it won’t (get worse) with the overdose prevention site now going to 24 hours, and hopefully by the end of the year, being a full, supervised consumption service. Hopefully, it will help.”

The overdose prevention site, which operates in an ATCO trailer on the Safe Harbour Society property, opened Oct. 1 in response to the opioid crisis to provide a safe, hygienic space for people to consume previously obtained drugs while being monitored.

In January, city council approved a supervised consumption site in the same area, which will replace the overdose prevention site, and will include inhalation booths that the overdose site does not have, as well as wrap-around health and social supports.


UPDATED: Overdose Prevention Site opens its doors Red Deer

Community hyper vigilance anticipated by Red Deer harm reduction agency

Since the overdose prevention site opened, people have made 10,184 visits and staff have responded to 233 overdoses.

The site became a 24-hour service in February.

Carmichael said an average of 150 visits were made daily to the site last month, and now that more people know it is open 24 hours a day, the number of clients and visits will likely increase.

“People are using the service and being kept as safe as possible. They’re being kept alive and getting connected and reminded they are worth something.”

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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