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Alberta NDP slams province’s opioid policies

New Alberta Health data shows 301 Albertans died from an opioid overdose in the second quarter of 2020, the most deadly three-month period ever by far. Deaths are up from 148 in the previous quarter and 124 in the quarter before that. The dramatic rise in the number of preventable deaths in 2020 reverses an overall downward trend in fatal overdoses from the middle of 2018.

“These are shocking numbers,” said Heather Sweet, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addiction. “More Albertans have died from an opioid overdose in the last three months than in the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic. The single most important responsibility of any government is to protect human life. But this government is turning away from scientific evidence and medical best practices and returning to a failed ‘War On Drugs’ approach...Every one of those deaths was preventable, if there had been someone in the room or on the phone to call for help. Every one of those Albertans leaves behind grieving family and friends.”

Jason Kenney’s government froze expansion of harm reduction programs and closed Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site, the busiest in North America, just months ago. Associate Minister Jason Luan also halted a clinical program running a virtual, telephone-based supervised consumption pilot program. The program would provide supervised consumption to suburban and rural areas that do not have access to in-person sites. The majority of overdoses occur in the home. Luan halted the program just hours before it was set to start.

“There was absolutely no community impact associated with a virtual program, but Luan cancelled it the day before it was due to start,” Sweet said. “It’s entirely possible that one of the hundreds of Albertans we are mourning today could have called that number and had someone summon an ambulance as they lost consciousness. Jason Kenney has inserted his personal prejudice into a public health crisis and it has cost lives. His handling of the opioid crisis is completely morally repugnant.”

“The Premier likes to talk about compassion, but the hard truth is that the number of overdose deaths began to rise before the pandemic reached Alberta and he has done nothing in response. There’s no compassion in allowing hundreds of people to die. Jason Kenney has failed to protect the lives of Albertans,” Sweet added.
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