Streetworks workers are the harm reduction experts who operate the city’s needle exchange program. They’ve been involved with Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton (AMSIS) since the idea for opioid safe use sites in Edmonton first came about. That was five years ago. 613 Albertans have died of fentanyl overdoses since then.
Streetworks Program Manager Marlis Taylor said that while $230,000 in provincial grant money has been allocated to request a drug use exemption from the federal government, there’s still a long road ahead.
“We have to meet a number of conditions, and that’s what the funding will help up with. We’re looking at, probably, a six to eight month process just to get the application conditions met.”
She described that process, as “hugely onerous.” With the number of opioid related deaths on the rise, that time frame can be measured in lives lost. Taylor said the human cost on the administrative process will likely come in somewhere near another 200 Albertans killed by fentanyl and other synthetic opioid drugs.
Taylor said there are two factors that have made now the time to put the proposal to Ottawa. The change from a Conservative government to Liberal, and the ever increasing number of opioid related deaths.
To date, 2016 has seen 193 Albertan lives lost to the powerful drug. That’s a rate of two Albertans killed every three days over the first three quarters of the year.