Pubdate: Wed, 08 Feb 2017
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Gillian Slade


Fentanyl overdose deaths in Alberta continue to rise, with 343
fatalities in 2016 alone; AHS hopes more emergency workers carrying
the kits will help bring those numbers back down

Another initiative to help prevent opioid overdose deaths will have
firefighters administering naloxone injections, Alberta Health
announced Tuesday.

"Now firefighters across the province can administer injectable
naloxone, giving them an additional life-saving tool when responding
to an overdose call," said associate minister of health Brandy Payne.

Medicine Hat's firefighters do not currently respond to medical
emergencies but that situation is being re-evaluated, said fire chief
Brian Stauth.

"We are going to evaluate our position on naloxone administration here
over the next few weeks," said Stauth. "We are glad to see AHS support
this in fire services. It is important for us not just from a patient
perspective but also the safety of our responders."

Alberta firefighters would previously only have administered naloxone
if they were registered paramedics, said Payne. Now any firefighter,
paid or volunteer, who takes the training qualifies.

There were 343 overdose deaths in 2016 related to fentanyl in Alberta,
compared to 257 in 2015. In 2011 that number was six, in 2012 there
were 29, in 2013 there were 66 and in 2014 a total of 117.

The numbers climbed throughout 2016 with 81 deaths between July and
September, and 111 in the fourth quarter from October to December.

"It saddens me to see that the fentanyl crisis in Alberta continued to
grow in our province in 2016, clearly demonstrating that more needs to
be done," Wildrose health critic Tany Yao said in a press release.

"We must do more to keep Albertans safe," said Payne, announcing
training for firefighters to administer naloxone by injection and
supplying them with naloxone kits at no cost.

The drug status for naloxone is also being changed from a schedule-2
drug to an unscheduled drug to make it more widely available, said
Payne. Community agencies will no longer need a nurse on site to
administer and distribute naloxone.

Any staff member trained on administering naloxone will be able to
provide kits and more community agencies will be able to register with
the Alberta Health Services take-home naloxone program. Data on how
many people have received life-saving naloxone and subsequently
entered a treatment program is not tracked at the moment.

"We measure our success by the number of naloxone kits that have
actually been distributed," said Dr. Karen Grimsrud, chief medical
officer of health Alberta.

The provincial government is working on new treatment spaces for those
struggling with opioid addiction, said Payne. About 300 patients in
AHS opioid dependency treatment clinics have been identified as ready
to transition to care under their family doctors, freeing up treatment
spaces for new patients.

Grant funding is being made available for agencies to establish and
support supervised consumption services, said Payne. A grant of
$230,000 has been made available in Edmonton to develop a proposal as
part of a federal application process for medically-supervised
injection services.

Grants totalling $500,000 have already been made available to Alberta
communities for needle distribution programs and assessing needs for
new services.

Alberta's approach to addressing opioids incorporates treatment, harm
reduction, prevention and public awareness, said Payne.

In addition to a report on opioid deaths every quarter, Alberta Health
will now also release data on fentanyl deaths every six weeks, it was
announced on Tuesday.

The number of carfentanil related deaths in Alberta stands at 22, it
was revealed in the press conference on Tuesday.

Last week Medicine Hat Police Service announced the first documented
seizure of carfentanil in Medicine Hat. Carfentanil is 100 times more
potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. It
was originally developed as a sedative for very large animals. One or
two small grains of the substance can be fatal in humans. Police chief
Andy McGrogan warned anyone aware of an unidentified white powder in a
bag to call police and not attempt disposal themselves.
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