Saskatchewan

Regina police have already had more overdoses reported in 2020 than in all of 2019

The number of overdoses in Regina so far this year has now surpassed last year’s total, according to numbers from the Regina Police Service.

Police say 85 ODs reported this year, 82 in 2019

All frontline officers with the Regina Police Service now carry naloxone kits with them. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

The number of overdoses in Regina so far this year has now surpassed last year's total, according to numbers from the Regina Police Service. 

Since Jan. 1, 2020, 85 overdoses have been reported in the city. Police responded to 51 and administered Narcan (a brand name for the anti-opioid medication naloxone) 18 times. So far, three people have died and three other deaths are under investigation. 

There were a total of 82 overdoses reported to police in 2019 and officers used Narcan seven times. 

Rand Teed, an addictions counsellor, said chronic drug users should be able to access addictions services faster to help avoid more sudden deaths. 

"There's an extremely toxic drug supply around right now and at the same time we seem to have a lack of resources," said Teed.

"It's really difficult to access services at the moment. I've had people waiting two weeks to get into detox, and if you have a substance use disorder or chemical dependency, you can't just stop using for two weeks while you wait to go into detox.

"You have to continue to use it to keep yourself at least manageable — and the greater the degree of addiction, the less risk perception there is on what am I going to use."

Rand Teed, a Regina-based addictions counsellor, says more resources need to be available to people with addictions in order to prevent overdoses. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

Due to the recent surge, the Regina Police Service has been keeping track of all overdose calls whether or not they attend. A spokesperson confirmed that it's a record number of overdoses in the city in such a short period of time. 

RPS said it's "alarmed" by the number of overdoses. 

"Anyone who is an active user of illicit fentanyl or fentanyl analogs is in danger," an RPS spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

"There's lots of investigative work being done in order to track and intervene on the supply of fentanyl and other drugs, but we can't disclose the details of that work."

Teed says fentanyl is a cheap and easily accessible drug that allows dealers to maximize profit. 

"There's a lot of fentanyl showing up in both opiates and in amphetamines, methamphetamine in particular," he said. 

"People who are chronically using methamphetamine don't have much opiate tolerance and so it doesn't take very much to put them into an overdose situation," Teed added.

Decision made on funding for safe consumption site: province

Heath Minister Jim Reiter said the situation is "very concerning" and it's the worst he's seen. 

"I just think it speaks to the problem province-wide with drug addiction and overdoses," he said. 

Reiter said said AIDS Saskatoon will find out whether it's getting funding for its supervised consumption site — the first in Saskatchewan — when the provincial budget is rolled out. 

He said a decision has been made, but did not reveal what that decision is.

"You saw a lot more funding go into last year's budget for mental health and addictions," Reiter said. "I think in the [coming] years you're going to see us have to focus on that even more."

Heath Minister Jim Reiter called the overdoses "very concerning" and said more funding will likely be coming for addictions services in the upcoming budget. (CBC)

What you need to know

If you see an overdose: call 911.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects anyone who is witnessing or experiencing a drug overdose from charges for possession of a controlled substance when they call 911 for help. 

Take-home naloxone kits are available in the province.

"Even if people are not making good choices for themselves, others around them should be aware of the higher-than-usual potential for drug overdose and have a safety plan," said an RPS media release. 

In February, police Chief Evan Bray said the kits were rolled out to all frontline officers. 

"It couldn't have happened at a better time." Bray said. 

"Our officers have been on multiple occasions, administered Narcan, and saved lives just by having that on their person."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Soloducha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.

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