Across Canada, the opioid overdose crisis has been driven by the emergence of fentanyl and other powerful illicit drugs as well as by inappropriate prescribing practices and poor education about the risks associated with opioids. Alberta had 343 deaths in 2016 associated with fentanyl overdoses.
In response to these unprecedented levels of opioid-related overdoses and deaths, the Federal Government has issued a report containing recommendations relating to prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement. $65 million has been committed over five years to support these recommended actions. Actions to date include making naloxone (a drug that can help reverse opioid overdoses) readily available, overturning the ban on the use of prescription heroin to treat the most severe cases of addiction, and introducing Bill C-37 to simplify and streamline the application process for supervised consumption sites, clamp down on illegal pill presses, and extend the authority of border officers to inspect suspicious small packages coming in from offshore.
Alberta is receiving $6 million for actions relating to the take-home naloxone program, additional treatment beds, supervised consumption services, and methadone and suboxone treatment programs. A dedicated Opioid Emergency Response Commission has been established to oversee these actions.
Given that municipalities are on the frontlines of dealing with the opioid crisis, AUMA will be holding an education session on best practices to address opioid use at the 2017 AUMA Convention and Tradeshow in Calgary.