Pubdate: Fri, 01 Sep 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Dustin Cook
Page: A7


Government will strive to make required policy changes, health
minister says

Mioara Whytock clutches a photograph in her hands as tears roll down
her cheeks, a picture of her son kayaking on her T-shirt.

Standing beside is her husband, Steve Whytock, wearing a shirt with a
different photo of Calum Whytock. Their son died of a carfentanil
overdose last April, just a week before his 19th birthday.

Calum Whytock was one of many overdose victims remembered at the
Alberta legislature Thursday on International Overdose Awareness Day.

Community and family members spoke of the need for political action to
combat the ongoing opioid crisis.

"Hopefully our government and politicians realize the parents and
their kids need help," Mioara Whytock said.

There have been 241 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta in the first
six months of 2017, a much higher rate than the 368 deaths linked to
fentanyl overdose in all of 2016.

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman spoke with families who lost
loved ones and said the government will work to make necessary public
policy changes.

"No parent ever wants to say goodbye to their child, and especially
when it's something that is so completely preventable," Hoffman said
with tears in her eyes following the memorial.

"These are people who often are struggling with many, many difficult
underlying challenges and they've chosen to use one day and that
shouldn't be a life sentence."

The province currently has an application to the federal government
for the establishment of four supervised consumption sites in
Edmonton, which Hoffman said they hope to have functioning by the winter.

Streetworks nurse educator Mathew Wong said it is important for
policies to focus on treatment and education, not just law
enforcement. He said this is an issue leading to new and dangerous
ways of consumption, such as suspected homemade "fentanyl stickers"
recently found in Edmonton and Calgary.

"If we just focus on the arrests and getting rid of the supply of
fentanyl, people are just going to come up with more creative ways of
hiding that fentanyl and those creative ways could be really really
dangerous," Wong said.

This new method is in the form of colourful stickers that look like
they're out of a children's art book.

They were first brought to the attention of Alberta Health Services
earlier this month by emergency responders in Edmonton, Dr. Mark
Yarema, medical director of the poison and drug information centre,
said Tuesday.

The same type of stickers were then found in the possession of at
least two patients in Calgary who were suffering from suspected drug

Marc Moebis, executive director of the Alberta Paramedics Association,
said the Calgary paramedics noticed the patient's saliva was
discoloured, consistent with the colours of the stickers in their
possession. Although not confirmed, this could mean the stickers were
ingested orally, but Moebis said they also could act like a patch and
be absorbed through the skin if the drug is on the adhesive side.

Following the emotional memorial, Mioara Whytock said this day is
important to send the message that youth struggling with drugs need
support because "everyone is somebody's someone."

"They are wonderful kids, they are not addicts," she said. "They just
get lost into this drug use and their minds are not there anymore and
because of that they need help."
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