Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2017
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Melissa Villeneuve
Page: A3


Several initiatives to combat opioid crisis

Expanding access to life-saving naloxone to fight fentanyl overdoses
across Alberta will save lives, but more still needs to be done to
combat the crisis.

In an AHS report released on Tuesday, there were 343 people who died
of fentanyl-related overdose last year in Alberta. Sixteen of those
were reported in the South Zone.

The government announced it is moving forward with several initiatives
to combat the opioid crisis. This includes the delivery and training
of naloxone for first responders and grant funding for support
agencies in some communities to work towards establishing supervised
consumption services.

Naloxone is also being made an unscheduled drug, which will allow
anyone to get a kit without a prescription. Administering naloxone to
someone experiencing an opioid overdose can help them breathe and buy
some time to get them to a hospital.

"Getting no-charge naloxone in the hands of people who use opiates,
their friends and family, emergency responders and others who might
witness an overdose is a key component to preventing overdose-related
deaths," said ARCHES executive director Stacey Bourque.

ARCHES Lethbridge has been ramping up training on how to administer
naloxone kits. In partnership with Lethbridge College, they are
providing eight, one-hour Overdose Prevention and Take-Home Naloxone
Kit Training workshops over this year. One of the workshops was held
on Wednesday.

The workshop aims to educate on current drug trends, such as fentanyl,
and how to identify and prevent an overdose using the take-home
naloxone kit.

The sessions are usually full, with between 80-100 participants, said

ARCHES is also partnering with AHS to offer training at various
locations in the near future. They also provide training on
administering naloxone at its clinic, where individuals can pick up a
free kit.

"I think for the most part it's really good information for them to
have. I think people don't necessarily understand how widespread the
issue is," said Bourque.

When it comes to illicit substance use or diverted prescription use,
people often believe the homeless populations are the ones who have
chronic addictions issues.

"That's not necessarily the case with the opioid crisis," she said, as
the report states only 20-30 per cent of fentanyl-related deaths last
year were people of no fixed address.

Eighty per cent of the fentanyl-related overdose deaths were men, the
report states. The majority of them (48 per cent) were between the
ages of 25-39.

Fentanyl-related deaths have been on the rise each year since the
first six were reported in 2011. There was a 25 per cent jump this
year from 2015, in which 257 fentanyl-related deaths were recorded.

Bourque said it's great that the government is looking to invest in
harm reduction right now, but there's still a lot of work ahead.

"I think they're doing a lot. But I think more needs to be done. The
numbers continue to increase, but at the same time we're always
limited by resources and how quickly we can move on these things," she

"They're looking at a variety of options and opportunities for
communities to be able to curb the crisis that's occurring," Bourque
continued. "From their perspective, I think they recognize this is an
issue and I think they're looking at different angles in how to
address it."

One thing the government has done is provide funding to complete needs
assessments to determine whether supervised consumption sites are
needed or wanted within seven communities, including Lethbridge.

There are over 90 supervised consumption sites worldwide, Bourque
said, and the evidence points to success in a variety of areas.

"Overall they increase health outcomes, they decrease crime, they
decrease mortality rates," she said. "Really, they're an entry point
and the hope is that they can move people along the spectrum to
eventually access detox or treatment."

It's a very long process to determine whether or not a supervised
consumption site fits within a community, said Bourque. She stressed
there are no current plans for a supervised consumption site in Lethbridge.

Once the data from the needs assessment is collected, it will be
compiled into a report. Bourque is hoping the assessment will identify
what is needed within our community.

"There's lots of different components we'd have to take into
consideration. At the end of the day, it has to benefit both people
who use drugs and improve health and safety practices, and be a
positive thing for the community."
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MAP posted-by: Matt