NDP asks Sask. government to respond to 'moment of crisis' after recent fentanyl-related overdoses

The leader of the Saskatchewan NDP says the province needs to step up its response to combating fentanyl overdoses in the province.

Premier Scott Moe vows to work with opposition on solutions

The Saskatchewan NDP want these naloxone kits more readily accessible by those at risk of an opioid overdose. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The leader of the Saskatchewan NDP says the province needs to step up its response to recent drug overdoses.

Ryan Meili said the overdoses are a "moment of crisis" and asked the province to expand the availability of naloxone kits and the nasal spray version narcan.

"It's not just a crisis in Saskatchewan and it's not a crisis just in the inner city. We're seeing deaths in Maidstone, we're hearing about fentanyl showing up in Weyburn and Kamsack, so this is happening all over the province," Meili said.

Naloxone kits have been lauded as an effective way to combat opioid overdoses at a cost of $35 to the government. The kits contain two doses of drug to be given in case of an overdose. Those who receive the kits must also undergo training.

Meili said he would like narcan nasal spray made available to the those who may need it free of charge. He said it would require less formal training.

"I think making narcan available free of charge for those who are at risk of overdosing is a smart thing to do."

Government and NDP can work together says premier

Premier Scott Moe accepted the NDP's offer for collaboration on solutions to combating fentanyl.

"Although it is new to our communities and we need to act and act quickly, we have taken action up until this point and we need to continue to enhance the access to these kits."

The government said the cost of narcan is $145, Meili said the cost could be balance by offsetting the training costs associated with take home naloxone. But the Ministry of Health says the training costs would be similar.

A paramedic holds a dose of naloxone, the drug used to reverse opioid overdose. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

Saskatchewan is one of five provinces that does not provide free naloxone kits at pharmacies, although they can be purchased for $30.

Currently the Saskatchewan Health Authority and a limited number of pharmacies have the ability to dispense kits. First responders in the province have also been provided with emergency naloxone.

Last week, AIDS Saskatoon asked for the right to hand out naloxone kits for overdoses after there were three recent overdoses.

"All of our staff are trained in naloxone and have naloxone kits on them," said Jason Mercredi, AIDS Saskatoon's executive director last week. "But the way it's set up right now, we can't be a distribution site."

Moe said expanding the proliferation of naloxone kits is an option.

"We will continue to look at what opportunities we have to get those kits in the hands of the CBOs (Community Based Organizations)," Moe said.

Recent deaths spark concern over fentanyl-cocaine link

Saskatoon police suspect the recent overdose deaths are connected to a batch of cocaine laced with fentanyl.

There were six overdoses recently that left three people dead. Police say those people died by ingesting cocaine laced with fentanyl. At least four other people overdosed that weekend. (CBC)

On Wednesday, Kamsack RCMP received word from a partner agency that two people had been exposed to a suspected mix of cocaine and fentanyl. In that case, the two people did not require emergency medical treatment.

On Friday, two men died in what is suspected of being drug overdoses in Maidstone, Sask.

On Saturday, the Weyburn Police Service sent out a tweet warning cocaine laced with fentanyl was present in the city although it had no proof.

Weyburn police invited anyone in possession with the suspected laced cocaine to turn it into police without being prosecuted.

Naloxone kits available free with completed training

Saskatchewan's take home naloxone program launched in Saskatoon in 2015 and is now in many major centres across the province. The Ministry of Health says more than 500 take-home kits have been used, and more than 1,700 people have received training.

The Ministry of Health said it has has provided $94,000 to the Saskatchewan Health Authority for the take home naloxone program

Users are asked to call 911 before administering naloxone because it is not a cure for an overdose and opioid poisoning may continue.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the Provincial Affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from CBC's David Shield and Alec Salloum