Blood Tribe to get $2.2M to tackle opi­oid cri­sis

Edmonton Journal - - CITY - ZACH LAING [email protected]­media.com

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 of the Blood Tribe depart­ment of health, said the an­nounce­ment left him “speech­less” and be­lieves the pro­gram will have a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive 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 re­serve.

Cowan told Post­media in Novem­ber how EMS staff on the re­serve are fre­quently us­ing nalox­one kits to re­verse the ef­fects of an over­dose be­fore bring­ing pa­tients to hos­pi­tal, only to have them “quickly re­leased” be­fore re­peat­ing “the same pat­tern and over­dose again.”

“Bring­ing them to the hos­pi­tal is not work­ing for us, for the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Pa­tients will then have the abil­ity to use the Kanai Tran­si­tion So­ci­ety to sup­port their re­cov­ery and tran­si­tion back into so­ci­ety.

“We be­lieve it’s the first time in Canada this has been done. We will have our EMS staff ... man a pro­gram 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Cowan said.

“They’ll be here to ac­cept the calls. (Pa­tients) will be kept for 10 to 14 days; our physi­cians will ad­min­is­ter an opi­oid re­place­ment like Subox­one and work with our ad­dic­tions and mental health staff.”

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.

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.

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