More than four overdose-related 911 calls made every day in Regina in 2021: RPS

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More than four overdose-related 911 calls made every day in Regina in 2021: RPS
WATCH: Earlier this week, the Regina Police Service reported responding to four apparent overdose deaths in just three days. Each death occurred at a different location. – May 19, 2021

On Tuesday, the Regina Police Service (RPS) released a public advisory warning about the dangers of drug use after they responded to four apparent overdose deaths in three days this week.

But those aren’t the only statistics painting a picture of the severity of the addictions crisis in the Queen City.

Statistics gathered as of May 19. Global News

They say they responded to three separate deaths Saturday, and another on Monday. Toxicology reports will be completed by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service to determine the specific substances used.

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Thus far in 2021, meanwhile, 608 911 calls have been made about possible overdoses. That’s over four per day.

While they don’t attend every call, RPS officers have responded to apparent overdoses 116 times.

Officers have administered naloxone 12 times.

Read more: Regina police report 4 apparent overdoses causing death in span of 3 days

The RPS is reporting 53 apparent overdose deaths so far in the Queen City in 2021.

Speaking Wednesday, RPS Communications Manager Elizabeth Popowich said there are a number of ways police are attempting to combat the overdose problem.

“We are not a health organization but it is incumbent on us to play a role in harm reduction. So we’re a partner at that table. The other part is education and awareness and we try to put a lot of information out there for people to use to their benefit. And we do a lot of enforcement. Interrupting the flow of drugs into the community is something police play a primary role in.”

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Popowich says the RPS seized 6,094 grams of fentanyl, meth and cocaine in 2020. She said, though, that policing away the illegal drug trade and addictions crisis is no easy task.

“We’ve done lots of effective enforcement. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things where you create an absence – you take out a dealer and someone else will step in because there’s still a market for it.”

The Saskatchewan Coroners Service had registered 36 confirmed drug toxicity deaths and 102 suspected drug toxicity deaths in 2021 as of May 4.

Read more: ‘You were crying for help’: B.C. mom’s anguish after daughter, 12, died of suspected drug overdose

A Regina harm reduction advocate, meanwhile, thinks deaths like those seen and the greater data trends suggest more money needs to be invested in harm reduction.

“It’s just unacceptable that this is happening,” said Newo Yotina Friendship Centre Executive Director Michael Parker.

“We’re doing everything we can to get our services off the ground so we can do our part to try and prevent that.”

Parker is planning to open Regina’s first supervised consumption site in the coming weeks. He says the opening has been a long time coming. The idea was first discussed last October.

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“We got some extra resources form the COVID-19 response that freed us up to pursue this. Then we found out the province would be able to authorize the site. In December we put in our request to have this exemption approved and then we didn’t hear back until mid-January,” Parker said.

“The response was, ‘Here’s the application process.’ So then we had to re-apply. In March we got preliminary approval. We got the letter of approval from the minister’s office on April 7. Then we started the hiring process.

“I’ll tell you what, If I had been able to hire somebody to manage the service we would have been able to launch sooner.”

While the province of Saskatchewan granted him permission to open a temporary site, he hasn’t received any direct government funding to help run his site. When it launches, the site will only operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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“We’ve had a lot of volunteers, we’ve had students help put together policy manuals — again, that’s a resource issue. The province has given us permission to operate but they haven’t really given us a lot of support to get to the point of opening in terms of dollars. And if we wanted to make this as accessible as possible it wouldn’t just be open Monday to Friday 9 to 4. That’s where there needs to be more resources,” Parker said.

“As far as I’m aware there’s never been a death on a supervised consumption site in Canada while the services were active.”

In presenting their 2021 budget, the province of Saskatchewan touted a 5.4-per cent increase in mental health and addictions funding. The budget increased funding by $7.2 million for “services including specific youth-focused initiatives, more investments in suicide prevention, and significant expansion in harm reduction and addictions treatment.”

Funding was also increased by $16.2 million for “hospital-based mental health and addictions services, physician visits and prescription drug costs.”

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