David Swann statement on 2017 second quarter opioid report

Calgary, AB (August 16, 2017): Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in response to the release of the 2017 second quarter opioid report:

“I am deeply troubled and saddened that another 119 Albertans tragically lost their lives in the last three months to opioid overdose.

“The number of people in the province dying from fentanyl overdoses each quarter remains unacceptably high. Over the past six months fentanyl alone has taken 241 lives, and this number is projected to reach 480 by the end of year – and this without adding in deaths due to other opiates.

“This dramatic increase in fentanyl deaths over the previous year illustrates the fact that, despite its best efforts, the NDP government still does not have a handle on this mental illness and addiction crisis.

“While the report calls this year’s number of overdose deaths ‘significant’, I find it horrifying, especially given that they are entirely preventable.

And, while the government claims ‘the trend appears to be ‘stabilizing’ since there were three fewer deaths from the previous quarter, I see the overall number of deaths as further evidence of a lack of progress.

“In short, this report shows that the NDP government is failing to significantly improve access to harm reduction and treatment services.

“What Alberta need is an evidence-based, coordinated plan, including wrap-around housing, social and psychological services that makes proper use all of the tools at the government’s disposal. This includes declaring a state of emergency and treating the issue as such.

“Whatever the NDP may think about the technical aspects of it, the symbolism alone of calling this what it is, an emergency, will go a long way in addressing harmful stigma, creating awareness and mobilizing resources.

“We need increased public education campaigns for all demographics, improved access to harm reduction measures, and we need to make these resources more readily available, especially outside of our major urban areas. These wait times continue to be too long.

“As we approach two deaths per day, we still must wait months for federal approval of safe consumption sites. I keep asking: what is the holdup here? This is supposed to be a national emergency. It is time for our provincial and federal governments to treat it as such.”