Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jun 2017
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2017 Whitehorse Star
Author: Emily Blake


The Yukon and British Columbia experienced the highest rates of
apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada last year.

According to a new national report from the federal government, the
territory and province had a rate of over 15 deaths per 100,000
population compared to a national rate of 8.8 in 2016.

"I don't think it's a surprise," Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon's chief
medical officer, told the Star of the findings this morning.

He noted that the territory's high rates are driven by the five deaths
officially linked to fentanyl since April 2016.

"Each death is so significant for our community; because we're small,
it tends to hit harder, it tends to affect us all, but the other thing
is a small number of deaths can, because of our small population, put
us into these high rates."

An apparent opioid-related death is a death caused by toxicity or
poisoning as a result of drug use where one or more of the drugs is an
opioid. In 2016, there were 2,458 of these deaths across Canada.

And western Canada experienced the highest rates with the Yukon, B.C.,
N.W.T. (10 to 14.9) and Alberta (10 to 14.9) all having rates over 10
per 100,000 population.

The report notes that B.C.'s numbers are likely an overestimate, as
the province reports on unintentional deaths related to all illicit

According to the B.C. Ministry of Health, there were 914 illicit drug
deaths in the province in 2016, an almost 80 per cent increase over
the number of deaths in the previous year (510).

"We can't think we're untouched here by opioids and fentanyl," Hanley
said of the Yukon.

Recognizing the issue, the Yukon government hosted the Preventing and
Managing Opioid Addiction/Misuse Through Innovative Models of Care
conference on May 31 and June 1.

The two-day event included speakers and panels on addiction,
non-pharmacological methods of treating pain, substitution therapy,
harm reduction, community-based models of care, and current guidelines
for opioid prescribing.

"It was really a very rich discussion over two days," said

He noted major takeaways from the conference include the importance of
trauma-informed care, recognizing and treating addiction as a
relapsing chronic brain disease, managing pain more holistically, and
better co-ordination among existing services.

"We do have a lot of services, but they don't necessarily talk with
each other," he said.

As well, Hanley said, many of the visiting and local speakers helped
inform discussions on addressing the issue in the Yukon.

This included Mae Katt, an Ojibway nurse practitioner who pioneered a
high school Suboxone program in Thunder Bay.

She spoke about the success of the program that includes wrap-around
cultural supports, including land-based programs, elders and grief

"What that informed us was that Suboxone has tremendous success if
it's done right with the appropriate support," said Hanley.

"The people you're treating, they need support, they need social
support, they need counselling, they need aftercare."

He added, "There are probably enormous possibilities for supporting
people with addictions better, whether it's here in Whitehorse or in
the rural communities."

Hanley noted that discussions from the conference will be taken back
to the opioid and pain management working group and will help
prioritize its actions over the following months.

In related data, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)
recently released a report which notes the Yukon has nearly three
times the national rate of hospitalizations entirely caused by alcohol.

The territory's rate is 676 per 100,000 population compared to 239
across Canada.

Hanley said addictions often involve multiple substances and that
alcohol and opioid misuse are related.

"The determinants of alcoholism and alcohol are very close to
opioids," he said.

He added that the public consequences of alcohol misuse are larger
than opioids. This includes chronic liver affects, chronic disease and
acute trauma and injuries.

According to the CIHI, government health care spending per person in
the Yukon is $8,413, and the cost of a standard stay in an acute care
hospital in the territory is $8,094.

Hanley noted that better opioid addiction management and treatment
will have a positive effect on alcohol use.
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MAP posted-by: Matt