$2.2-MILLION BOOST FOR BLOOD TRIBE OPIOID TREATMENT FACILITY
Officials on the Blood Tribe reserve in southern Alberta have been calling for help from the provincial government as they face an unprecedented opioid crisis — and now that call has been answered.
The province announced Thursday the tribe will be given $2.2 million over two years for a program to help overdose patients into recovery.
Under the program, Blood Tribe paramedics will have the option of transporting overdose patients directly to a treatment site where they can recover and receive resources and programs to help them get clean.
Kevin Cowan, chief executive officer of the Blood Tribe health department, said the announcement left him “speechless” and believes the program will have a significant impact on the community.
“This will make a huge difference for us here — having those paramedics on 24-7 providing a service to people that simply weren’t getting that service,” he said.
The tribe has been facing a crisis as carfentanil — a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than fentanyl — has flooded the streets of the reserve. Between October and November, there were 94 overdoses on the reserve, 57 of which came last month, and Cowan said there have been another six overdoses on the reserve in December.
Carfentanil is so potent, one Blood Tribe paramedic service found four patients overdosing after having split just one tablet.
Alberta Health Minister
Sarah Hoffman said the government is proud to give this funding to the program.
“The Blood Tribe has developed a community-based solution to help ease the current overdose crisis,” she said.
The province also announced funding for a permanent supportive housing complex in Lethbridge on Friday, which is just west of the reserve.
The $11-million project will provide accommodations for 42 people, with government investing another $1.6 million to create as many as 30 new harm reduction spaces in the city “for people to stay while they sober up,” the province said in a statement.