Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann says the government should declare a public health emergency to allow officials to get a better handle on the drug fentanyl.
Swann says it would be likely to prompt police, social workers and health-care providers to work together and free up some resources.
Swann points out that there were 150 opiate overdose deaths by the end of June in Alberta.
He suggests there should be weekly updates on fentanyl deaths similar to the ones the province provides for the flu in the winter.
Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne says a state of emergency is more appropriate for communicable diseases.
She says the designation would provide too many broad powers to authorities such as police going into homes without search warrants, closures of schools and seizure of property.
Still, Swann says, there’s a dearth of information on fentanyl at present.
“We don’t have real-time numbers on deaths, the characteristics of the individuals who are dying, how they’re using often a combination of drugs,” he said Wednesday. “In short, we’re not following the standard approach to an epidemic.”
Payne said information is being collected.
“A number of the data points Dr. Swann specifically cited are not being publicly reported necessarily, but that data is being collected and monitored by health officials,” she said.
An alarming number of fentanyl overdose deaths earlier this year in British Columbia prompted that province’s chief health officer to declare a public health emergency.
-With files from CHQR.
© 2016 The Canadian Press