Funds provided to help fight opioid crisis
Monday, Mar 20, 2017 06:00 am
Alberta will receive $6 million in emergency funding from the federal government to help deal with the growing opioid crisis in the province.
“The opioid crisis is complex and is affecting communities across this country in different ways. To get ahead of the crisis, we need to be collaborative and compassionate in finding solutions that work in each community,” said Minister of Health Jane Philpott in a release issued March 10. “Today’s announcement is just part of our ongoing commitment to exhaust every possible avenue in addressing this crisis.”
Alberta’s opioid crisis – particularly fentanyl – has been steadily growing over the past number of years, according to statistics provided by Alberta Health Services (AHS). In 2016, 343 people died from fentanyl overdose, up from 257 in 2015. From Jan. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2016, there were approximately 19,930 emergency and urgent care visits related to opioids and other substances of misuse, averaging 1,812 visits per quarter.
Fifteen people died in Alberta from taking the highly toxic drug carfentanil between September 2016 and November 2016. In Alberta, the legal use of carfentanil is limited to large animals. The opioid is 100 times more toxic than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Just one grain of carfentanil can be lethal. It has not been licensed for use on humans.
Provincial Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman said she appreciates the increased funding from the federal government.
“With the growing toll the opioid crisis is taking on Alberta communities, our government is focused on taking every action we can to save lives. This support from the federal government is crucial in supporting our work to expand treatment to more Albertans affected by substance use,” Hoffman said in a release.
Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards said while he was glad the funding was being made to the province, he hoped the money would be used to treat the problem proactively.
“We’d like to see some more actions taken in regards to a federal strategy or approach to this…to prevent these kinds of substance abuse situations from occurring in the first place,” he said. “From my perspective, this is a long overdue and welcome (move) to address the problem, finally.
“Solutions often require some money but you can’t just say, ‘Here’s some money. Now the problem’s going away.’ It doesn’t work like that. The first thing is to try to prevent (the substance abuse).”
The provincial government has not indicated how the funds will be allocated except to say the money will go to support the work of Alberta Health Services, Alberta Health and other community partners engaged in the battle against opioid abuse.
The province has indicated one priority will be the further implementation of the take home naloxone program.
Naloxone, or narcan, is used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. Providing additional treatment beds has also been identified as a priority.