Turning Point advises people to be prepared with Naloxone kits. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Turning Point advises people to be prepared with Naloxone kits. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Opioid deaths slightly down but contaminated supply of drugs circulating in Red Deer

People warned about bad batch of strong opiates contaminating drug supply

Red Deer had 15 opioid-related deaths in the first four months 2021, which is three fewer deaths compared to the last four months of 2020.

The Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System showed five deaths in January, four in February, two in March, and four in April.

Red Deer had the third highest opioid death rate at 42.9 per 100,000 people in April.

Grande Prairie had the highest rate at 62.9, and 17 deaths in the first four months of the year. Edmonton had the second highest rate at 42.2, and 147 deaths.

The provincial death rate was 27.4 in April, with a total of 454 deaths in the first four months.


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Sarah Fleck, clinical manager at Turning Point’s overdose prevention site (OPS), said deaths may be down slightly, but in the last couple of days a contaminated supply of drugs has arrived in the city.

“Last night in an eight-hour period, they saw 11 overdoses at the overdose prevention site. There’s currently quite a bad batch of substances,” said Fleck on Thursday.

“I would really encourage people to go to a pharmacy, or access Turning Point, to make sure they have a Naloxone kit and know how to use it in case they have a friend, or family member, who needs support.”

Between January and April, overdose prevention site staff responded to 367 adverse events requiring mostly onsite treatment. Only Calgary treated more adverse events with 429.

Fleck said those drug reversals demonstrate how effective the OPS is for people who access it.

“We have a lot of people that will come and say, ‘I’m going to use in here because I know there are really strong opioids in the city right now and I want to make sure I’m safe.’”


7 Opioid-related deaths in Red Deer in November

The surveillance system showed there were 7,697 visits to Turning Point’s overdose prevention site in the first four months of 2021, and there was an average of 202 unique clients per month.

On July 1, the OPS was back to operating at full capacity, which was reduced due to the pandemic.

“We’re very grateful we were able to make that change. We definitely need to accommodate more people right now because of the increase in the potency of opiates on the street.”

A shade shelter and misting hose is available outside the OPS to encourage people to continue to use the site during the current heat wave.

Fleck said the weather absolutely impacts people’s ability and desire to move around.


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