Over the past few years, the number of fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths has skyrocketed to nearly a death a day. The recently released fourth quarter Opioid and Substances of Misuse Alberta Report revealed there were 343 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016, over 57 times the total number of deaths in 2011.
So far, the NDP government’s response to the crisis has been merely reactive. It has refused repeated calls to declare a public emergency, which would allow for increased co-ordination, expanded powers, more resources and additional funds.
MLAs from each caucus participated in a joint news conference to urge the government to recognize a public emergency in Alberta.
“The safety of Albertans need to be placed above partisan lines, and that is why all opposition parties have gathered together to call for an emergency debate. It’s about time this government wakes up and recognizes that the state of opioid abuse is at a crisis level. Law enforcement officials, first responders and the health care community need the real-time opioid abuse statistics provided by declaring a public health emergency. Not using every available tool to save lives, and help health and law enforcement efforts, shows the NDP government’s complete naivety to the situation.”
Angela Pitt, Wildrose Shadow Justice and Solicitor General Minister
“When it comes to the lives of Albertans, we should be doing everything we can to address the rising problem of opioid abuse. The current reactive approach this government is taking is clearly not working, as more and more Albertans are dying every year. Other provinces have taken the practical approach to declaring a public emergency and it’s time for our government to do the right thing and begin to take real action.”
Mike Ellis, Progressive Conservative Justice and Solicitor General Critic
“Declaring a public emergency is more than symbolic, it gives front-line healthcare providers and first responders new tools to address this crisis. Fentanyl knows no bounds. It impacts every socio-economic group; the next victim could be your neighbour, your son or daughter. The numbers don’t lie, and our government should do everything in their power to stop it.”
Greg Clark, Alberta Party Leader
“We are approaching two opioid-related deaths a day. That should constitute an emergency by any measure. There is no shame in acknowledging this crisis exceeds our current capacity to handle it. We need help. And we need to take immediate action to stop this scourge.”
David Swann, Alberta Liberal Leader
The opposition will also stand together this afternoon to support a motion to adjourn the ordinary business of the Legislative Assembly for an emergency debate on the growing number of opioid-related deaths, including the use of fentanyl.