The Alberta Liberals are calling for a public inquiry into drug-related deaths of inmates at correctional facilities and remand centres.

Liberal Leader David Swann wants an inquiry to look at how drugs are screened and how to better prevent contraband from being smuggled into jails.

With the growing problem of opioid use such as fentanyl, Swann is asking for a review of how staff are trained in mental health and addictions.

"We have a very serious issue here that we need to get a handle on," Swann said.

The Liberals said they have filed a Freedom of Information request to find out the exact number of deaths in the past five years.

David Swann

Liberal leader David Swann wants an inquiry to review of how staff are trained to deal with mental health and addictions.

In the first nine months of 2016, three inmates of the Edmonton Remand Centre died from what is believed to be drug overdoses. Another 23 were given naloxone — a drug antidote — to save them from suspected opioid overdoses.

"It's (opioids) now in powder form," said Swann, a doctor. "It could be easily inhaled by staff as well as inmates, inadvertently."

Swann, a former medical health officer, wrote a letter to the Fatality Review Board on Monday requesting an inquiry. He said he expects a response within four weeks.

The Liberals have also asked Alberta's ombudsman to review drug-related near-deaths in jails.