Health Min. Reiter says 'we have to do better' after drug overdoses kill 6 in Regina over 36 hours

Regina police say seven people have had drug overdoses, six of them fatal, since Canada Day. Saskatchewan's Health Minister Jim Reiter says the province needs to do more to help those struggling with addictions.

Police say 7 people have had overdoses, 6 of them fatal, on July 1 and 2

Regina police say five people have died in a short amount of time due to drug overdoses. (CBC)

Regina police say at least seven people have had drug overdoses, six of them fatal, since Canada Day.

Regina police say they got a call about the first OD, which turned out to be fatal, just after midnight on July 1. By Thursday afternoon, there had been six more overdoses.

Police said toxicology tests are being done and it's not yet clear which drugs were used, but it's believed that opioids like fentanyl were involved.

They believe at least four of the deaths may be connected, because they happened around the same few city blocks.

Since the start of 2020, the Regina Police Service has seen a steep increase in overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal. Police, EMS and other emergency services have been called to 450 overdoses so far in 2020.

"Quite frankly, it's the increased prevalence of fentanyl in our community — the ability for people to buy fentanyl and access it," Deputy Police Chief Dean Rae said. "That's what's creating a lot of our a lot of our overdoses at this point."

Police have administered naloxone — commonly known by the brand name Narcan — 35 times. Twenty-three deaths are confirmed to be drug-related so far this year, with another 16 deaths possibly related but unconfirmed, police said.

The overdoses are a concern to Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter.

During question period at the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina Thursday, Reiter said conversations around mental health and addictions have been taking place at a high level during the pandemic, noting it's one of the reasons non-COVID-19 medical services needed to be resumed.

"A lot of attention was paid to [resuming] surgeries — and rightly so — but it wasn't just surgeries. It's obviously mental health and addictions is a huge part of that as well," he said. 

He said while he hasn't heard from Regina officials about the overdose, he is open to hearing suggestions from local leaders and police officers on the best way to proceed, saying the province needs to do more work to help those struggling with addictions. 

"We just have to do better with addictions services right across the board. Detox, addictions treatment beds, counselling, all the services around it."

For now, Regina police urge those struggling with a drug addiction to seek medical help and supports to mitigate self-harm and become healthy again. 

Police are also asking people to watch for signs of an overdose and call 911 in an emergency. 

The signs of an opioid overdose can include:

  • Difficulty walking/talking/staying awake.
  • Blue lips or nails.
  • Very small pupils.
  • Cold and clammy skin.
  • Dizziness and confusion.
  • Extreme drowsiness.
  • Choking, gurgling or snoring sounds.
  • Slow, weak or no breathing.
  • Inability to wake up, even when shaken or shouted at. 

Police remind users the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects anyone who is experiencing, or present during, an overdose from being charged with possession because they called 911. 

People concerned about experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose can receive a take-home naloxone kit. The kits can be used to bring a person back during an overdose. 

Police are asking anyone with information to phone the Regina Police Service at 306-777-6500 or anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.