WATCH ABOVE: As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the justice is calling for drug courts to be set up in all smaller Aberta towns and cities.
CALGARY – It has been linked to 145 deaths in Alberta in just six months.
A death toll that has already surpassed last year’s total of 120 fatal fentanyl overdoses.
Now, the Calgary judge that started a drug treatment court in Calgary, says he’s worried about the use of the drug among the people he sees.
The justice is calling for more drug treatment courts to be set up in all smaller Alberta towns and cities.
Painkiller addiction has been on the rise in Canada for years and now, so have deaths from fentanyl.
The opioid that’s being made illegally and now showing up among people attending Calgary’s drug treatment court.
“I am sad to say that we certainly have become more aware of and seen fentanyl not just with our participants but with those that they know in the community,” said. “But that is a serious drug, serious problem in our community that sadly usually leads to death,” said Assistant Chief Judge James Ogle.
Assistant Chief Judge James Ogle is the founder of the drug court, an alternative justice program that offers a second chance to drug users who commit crimes to fund their habits.
“Right now there’s a real discussion in Alberta about what the best model is for drug treatment courts. It can be said of the drug treatment cords are expensive but in another way they’re an incredibly wise investment because the cost of addiction is terribly expensive. So every successful graduate is a tremendous saving to the community.”
Judge Ogle and his staff are expecting to meet with Alberta’s justice minister regarding adding more drug courts outside Calgary and Edmonton.
“I firmly believe that the strong economic case can, and has been made for drug courts and personally I would love to see them expanded across the province. They can be in a different form than perhaps a larger center, but there’s no reason why every small community cannot have a mini drug court,” Judge said.
Rick ‘Titan’ Bognar spent much of his life as a pro-wrestler travelling the world.
Now retired, he speaks at Calgary schools and events like Recovery Day warning how quickly he became hooked on painkillers.
“It’s really easy. I didn’t realize it while I was wrestling. I needed them at the time, it was like being in a car crash once or twice a week,” Bognar said. “It’s like being in hell. It’s a physically painful process, racing mind, craziness process. It’s a sense of overwhelm, plus burning sensations and freezing cold sensations, it’s hellish.”
As for those in recovery, just hearing others share their stories can provide the courage to get through the dark times.
“Get help. Go ask for help, go to a recovery center, go to a dry out center. There are a couple here in town. Do whatever you can, because it will save your life,” Bognar said.
Alberta health minister Sarah Hoffman has said the government is now funding a pilot project to help get people off fentanyl.
Alberta Health is paying for kits to help people who are at risk of overdosing on dangerous opioid drugs like fentanyl and the province announced this summer it is providing funding for take home naloxone kits.
Naloxone is a drug that can reverse a fentanyl overdose if it is administered right away.