The opioid crisis continues to hit Alberta hard, with the latest numbers showing more and more Albertans are dying because of the drug.
The government released its latest report on opioid misuse Friday, which showed 51 Albertans died from an apparent fentanyl overdose in the first six weeks of 2017. That’s nearly double the number in 2016, when 28 people died over the same six-week period.
The government data shows 349 people died from apparent fentanyl overdoses in 2016.
“We’re not getting ahead of it and more and more Albertans are feeling the sting, the sadness, the suffering associated with a family member dying from this terrible, terrible addiction,”Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann told News Talk 770.
LISTEN: Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann on Alberta opioid crisis
Swann is once again calling on the government to declare a state of emergency and has said the province needs to reestablish the provincial mental health and addictions officer. He said the new role should oversee a strategy involving both government and non-government agencies, including police, social services and First Nations communities.
In a statement on Friday, Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne said her government recognizes the deadly threat opioids like fentanyl pose to Albertans, their families and first responders.
“That’s why we are multiplying our efforts and will spend up to $56 million over the next year to help Albertans get the treatment they need, reduce the harms of substance use and raise public awareness.”
Swann said in a statement that he welcomes $6 million in additional federal funding to help combat Alberta’s opioid crisis and the NDP government’s efforts to curb the growing number of fentanyl-related deaths.
The federal government announced the funding last month, building on the $74 million in federal funding that had previously been announced. In March, the province also announced $7 million in funding for the Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary, which helps recovering addicts and their family members.
Swann also renewed his call for increased public education efforts and timelier access to harm reduction, including replacement therapy and safe injection sites.
He adds that regulatory bodies need to make sure their guidelines are being followed to prevent the abuse of opioid prescriptions.
“We may be saving thousands of lives every year with Naloxone, but it’s not getting at the root issues, which is getting people into therapy, counselling, recovery and ensuring that they have access very quickly to timely substitute therapy and counselling,” Swann said.