Turning Point: More action needed to address opioid crisis hurting Red Deer

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
May 24, 2017 - 11:59pm Updated: May 25, 2017 - 11:05am

Local resources are inadequate, but calling for a provincial public health emergency may not be the answer.

This according to Sarah Fleck, Interim Operational Manager at Red Deer-based Turning Point on the heels of the latest opioid overdose report from Alberta Health.

Opposition parties are calling out the NDP for ‘mishandling’ and ‘dragging its feet on’ the opioid crisis.

Fleck suggests the focus should be less on declaring a public health emergency and more on taking the necessary actions to address it.

“We know that in Edmonton there is a very limited wait time for those looking to get opiate replacement therapy. We’re a city of over 100,000 people and we know that we have inadequate resources in terms of physicians available to provide that opiate replacement therapy. Also, because it’s a substantial amount of time for them, they need extra support from the college of physicians and surgeons,” she says.

“There are a few things that need to take place in order to remove the current lack of streamlined services and gaps in service for people who use opiates.”

Help for users in Red Deer and the Central zone is particularly needed given the striking numbers included in the report, released late Friday afternoon.

In 2016, Red Deer had the highest per capita rates in the province for both overdose deaths from fentanyl (23 deaths, 21.0 per 100,000) and overdose deaths from opioids other than fentanyl (12 deaths, 11.0 per 100,000).

Red Deer has seen five fentanyl-related deaths through the first quarter of 2017 and 

“It was super disheartening and frustrating to hear that. But we really have been feeling the impacts of this opioid crisis, and our clients have been so substantially affected by the death toll that the numbers didn’t shock us as much as give testament to what we’re seeing every day,” Fleck continues.

She says there were 60 naloxone reversals reported to Turning Point in April and another 45 so far this month, including four that became fatal.

“This crisis is moving really quickly and faster than anybody can handle. In B.C., their death toll continues to rise despite all their massive interventions. So I don’t know if it’s been mishandled so much as nobody is prepared for it and there’s no precedent for best practice. I do think they’re trying; it’s a work in progress. Unfortunately lives are being lost while we wait.”

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