Posted on May 12, 2016

Fentanyl Crisis and Naxolone Question Period 05-12-2016

Opioid Use Prevention

Mr. Barnes: The fentanyl crisis deserves the full attention of this government, and those on the front line need access to as many resources as possible. In British Columbia a public health emergency allows first responders, emergency room staff, and the coroner’s office to provide the time and place of overdose, which drug was used, how it was taken, and details about the patient. Getting this information into the hands of public health authorities and to the public in Alberta would save lives. To the Premier: will you commit to putting a public health emergency into place to allow for this crucial sharing of information?

The Speaker: The Associate Minister of Health.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for the question. The Alberta act and the B.C. act are radically different. Our department has looked into whether or not a public health emergency would accomplish the goal of giving us additional tools with which to deal with this crisis, and it has been determined that it does not. What a public health emergency would do is allow us to quarantine people against their wishes, seize private property, and enter into private homes without a warrant, which, frankly, won’t help with an addiction problem.

Mr. Barnes: Mr. Speaker, it isn’t just fentanyl that is killing Albertans. There’s an opioid crisis. To get an understanding of what needs to be done, we need to know how many overdoses there have been from heroin, from morphine, from hydromorphone, from oxycodone, and even from W-18. Only then will we get a clear picture of the crisis and how to combat it, including partnering with Health and law enforcement. Will the Premier commit to releasing these statistics on a continual basis so resources can be best allocated?

The Speaker: The Associate Minister of Health.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. Our department is working very closely with our partners in Justice and with the medical examiner to ensure that we have timely and up-to-date statistics. We are also recognizing that this goes beyond just fentanyl, that we do indeed have an opioid crisis in our province, which is why our government is also moving forward on opioid replacement therapy treatment options as well as support for detox beds throughout our province.

Mr. Barnes: Hearing the Associate Minister of Health say only yesterday that for the first three months of this year numbers seem to have stabilized was concerning. I’d say that this crisis is anything but stable. It’s growing. Here are the numbers to date even though medical professionals tell me they are low. Sixty-nine deaths in the first three months of 2016 mean we are on track for 276 deaths this year. That’s higher than in 2015, Mr. Speaker, when the crisis was first addressed. This government needs a wake-up call. What concrete steps, not just vague promises of a fentanyl strategy . . .

The Speaker: Thank you hon. member.

The Associate Minister of Health.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. Indeed, any death due to an overdose is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to all the families and loved ones who are affected by this crisis. Our government is moving forward on the opioid dependency treatment that I outlined. We’re going to be opening a clinic within Cardston very shortly and are working with partners across the province to ensure that we are able to offer those treatments around our province. Additionally, I was pleased to announce yesterday that Albertans can now access take-home naloxone kits without a prescription and that we’ve worked with our partners and pharmacies to ensure that family members can pick up those kits for their loved ones.


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