Calgary Sun - - NEWS - — ZACH LAING

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.

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