The drug crisis in Alberta is hitting an area in the southern region particularly hard. Blood Tribe fire and emergency services told Global News the First Nation has seen 34 overdoses – three resulting in deaths — in just 21 days in November.
The spike in overdoses is pushing emergency crews into overdrive, according to Blood Tribe fire and EMS director Jacen Abrey.
“We’ve gone into some homes where we’ve had four people overdosed, and having four staff, you only have so much equipment,” Abrey said. “It’s really taxing on our resources. It’s taxing on our police, our EMS staff and our administration.”
The problem is seemingly growing, with Abrey reporting his team responded to 12 overdoses in a 24-hour span, from Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon.
The staggering increase this month led Blood Tribe chief and council to issue two separate warnings to tribe members in eight days.
A social media post to tribe members notes that carfentanil is the drug behind the overdoses and the “deadly drug has the potential to cause respiratory arrest and death after just one dose.”
Frontline emergency crews know how important their work is on the Blood Tribe right now.
“If we’re not there quick enough, they’ll die,” paramedic Oliver Stokes said. That’s kind of the reality of the situation.”
Stokes and several other paramedics are working to save lives and when dealing with carfentanil, they have to know what they’re up against.
“It seems like it takes more Narcan to bring them out of it. You have to keep giving it quite a bit more,” Stokes said. “With fentanyl, it might not be quite as much. You notice when they come out of it and they start talking to you or breathing again.”
More help is on the way to fight addiction in the community. Blood Tribe chief and council, along with emergency service members, met earlier this month to look at how they can address gaps in service to help users get clean.
“We are actually in the process now of starting our own detox centre that will be here in the townsite of Standoff,” Abrey said. “We won’t be treating and releasing, we’ll be treating and taking them to a facility where they’ll be monitored.”
Abrey added this will allow Standoff to be independent from outside communities in providing detox services.
“We’re going to be able to provide this internally in the Blood Reserve,” Abrey said. “We’ll be offering them the help with the elders in the community, with our social workers, with our case workers, making sure that they have everything that they need.
Abrey said officials hope to have the detox centre operational by the first week of January.