Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Dr. Swann: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A briefing note I obtained from the Calgary Police Service shows the further impact that opioids, including fentanyl, are having on policing resources in the community. In 2016 the Calgary Police Service responded to 223 overdose calls, including 111 fentanyl-related charges. These numbers have risen dramatically every year for the last five years. There’s also been a corresponding spike in property crime driven by addiction. To the Minister of Justice: if the government has all the resources it needs, why do these numbers keep going up?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Ms Ganley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. We know that fentanyl and addictions are best attacked on a health front by ensuring that we have the necessary treatments, and that is why our Associate Minister of Health has been moving so quickly to ensure that we have treatment beds available, that we have replacement therapies available, that we have naloxone available. I’m in regular contact with the Calgary police and every other police service. They support the approach that we are taking, and we will move forward together.
Dr. Swann: That’s a bit of a stretch given the chief of police’s comments in the last month.
The danger of falling victim to an opioid overdose doesn’t end once people are arrested. A letter I received from the Justice minister just last month admits an unprecedented 10 Albertans died in custody last year. Two of the deaths have been confirmed to be the result of overdoses; six more await the final ME, medical examiner, report. There were also 27 near deaths – 27 – that were prevented by emergency intervention in remand and corrections. To the minister: how are you investigating these deaths, what are the results, and what actions are you taking to prevent this?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Ms Ganley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The safety of our inmates and our correctional workers is of the utmost priority in the correctional division. We know that fentanyl has a much more deadly effect than other drugs. We do know that that can cause some challenges. I think that we should await the actual statistics before we draw any conclusions on that, but corrections officers take steps every day, including searches, intelligence, and we’re even investigating body scanners, to ensure that our inmates are as safe as we can make them.
The Speaker: Second supplemental.
Dr. Swann: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The opioid crisis is pervasive, affecting urban, rural, First Nations, and all economic classes, and it crosses all government jurisdictions. Beyond Health it includes human services, Education, Justice, and First Nations. We need a clear, comprehensive, evidence-based strategy. So far the govern-ment has failed to deliver this. To the Premier: when will a comprehensive, government-wide strategy for the opioid crisis be tabled in the Legislature?
The Speaker: The Deputy Premier.
Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for his question. My door continues to be open, and we’ve been pleased to receive some of his feedback as well as the feedback of others throughout the province, whether it’s with regard to Health, Justice, human services, and so on. We continue to work on pulling all of those pieces together. The member is absolutely right that more can and must be done. I’m confident that the associate minister is taking those recommendations into consideration, and we’ll be happy to update this House in a timely fashion as we continue to move forward.