13 opioid-related deaths in Lethbridge since SCS defunding announcement
Yesterday, I received the following message from someone who works in Alberta Health Services’ South Zone:
It seems as though Alberta Health Services held a town hall yesterday morning for employees in the South Zone. Over 400 attended. In that meeting, one of the things mentioned was that since Jason Luan, the associate minister of mental health and addictions, announced last week that the province was defunding the Lethbridge supervised consumption site, 13 Lethbridge residents have died of opioid addictions.
I reached out to ARCHES, and I was able to confirm that the supervised consumption site is still operating-at least temporarily-but that clients think it has already shut down.
In fact, when I went to the supervised consumption site last night as part of the Sage Clan Patrol, we encountered far fewer people there than we normally do.
If clients think that the supervised consumption site is already closed, then that means-as many people predicted-that those clients will be using elsewhere-even in public places. And with no health care staff on hand to reverse overdoses, the number of overdoses will increase.
For reference, there were 15 opioid-related (fentanyl and non-fentanyl) deaths in the entire South Zone during the first 3 months of 2020.
In Lethbridge itself, there were 6 opioid-related (fentanyl and non-fentanyl) deaths during the first 3 months of 2020. In fact, there were 20 in total for all of 2019.
This means that in less than a week, more than twice as many people died in Lethbridge due to opioids than died during the first 3 months of 2020, and 65% of the entire total in 2019.
ARCHES claims on their website that health care staff there responded to over 3,500 medical emergencies, which include overdoses, between February 2018 and June 2020. Assuming those numbers are accurate, that means there are hundreds-perhaps even thousands-of overdoses that they prevented from becoming deaths.
And unless the province reverses their decision to defund the supervised consumption site -or finds a reasonable alternative designed to prevent deaths-those overdoses will become deaths instead of reversals.
Originally published at kimsiever.ca on 22 July 2020.