Calgary's fentanyl-related death toll far surpasses anywhere else in Alberta

An Alberta Health report says on average two people die every day in Alberta as a result of an opioid overdose, and so far in 2019 there have been 116 fentanyl-related deaths in Calgary.

Report says 81 per cent of overdose deaths this year are directly linked to fentanyl

The latest numbers in the province's opioid crisis are chronicled in the Alberta Opioid Response Surveillance Report for the second quarter of 2019. (CBC)

The latest report on Alberta's opioid crisis shows Calgary had by far the most accidental deaths related to fentanyl in the province in the first half of 2019.

The report issued by Alberta Health says there were 116 fentanyl-related deaths in Calgary in the first six months of the year. Edmonton recorded 80 and Grande Prairie had 19. Lethbridge reported 11 accidental deaths related to fentanyl.

On average, two people die every day in Alberta as a result of an opioid overdose.

Steve Buick, the spokesman for the province's Chief Medical Officer, says the increase in fentanyl overdose deaths in the second quarter of 2019 is concerning.

"We're hopeful we're turning the corner, but this is still far too many deaths.… We need to do more, including a greater focus on treatment and recovery," he said in a statement on Monday.

However, he says readers of the report need to be cautious about judging where the trend is going and what factors drive changes from quarter to quarter.

"There are many factors at play including, most importantly, the supply and distribution of illicit fentanyl and the behaviour of addicts," said Buick.

Buick says the province recently announced funding to provide 4,000 new treatment spaces over four years and that the government's committee on safe consumption will submit its recommendations later this fall.

Leslie Hill with HIV Community Link says the city's overdose death rate is slowly going down and she believes this means interventions may be working.

"The fact that we still see 17 per 100,000 [population] and 116 deaths in Calgary this year tells us we still have a long way to go in addressing this crisis," she said on Monday.

"I think it's really important to make sure that we're continuing to invest in evidence-based services to support people who are at risk of dying by overdose," Hill said.

She says this includes access to harm reduction services such as supervised consumption, and access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services.

"One of the really concerning things that I see in this report is that 83 per cent of the people who died by overdose had other substances also listed as a cause of death.… It tells us that all substances are being used and that people who use them need to have access to services," she said.


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