“It’s a struggle to make this message stand out in what has been a busy – and difficult – year. But, we are asking – even begging – people to stop for a moment to consider the clear and present danger of fentanyl and other drugs in our city,” the RPS said in a statement.
“This drug is killing fathers, mothers, children, siblings, friends, neighbours and colleagues.”
“And it is ruining the lives of many more people.”
In November 2021, RPS Communications Centre transferred 231 calls to EMS for both non-fatal and fatal drug overdoses.
In October 2021, there were 19 apparent overdose deaths in Regina.
From Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, 2021 RPS Communications Centre has received and transferred 1,641 calls to EMS for drug overdoses. So far this year, officers have accompanied EMS on 299 of those overdose calls. Of those calls, 137 of them involved people dying from apparent drug overdoses.
According to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service in Regina there have been 81 confirmed drug toxicity deaths in 2021 as of Nov. 3.
Sgt. Donna Wall has been with RPS for 28 years and said the issue of drugs and overdoses has changed “dramatically” since she started in the 90s.
Back then, she said officers would respond to about one overdose call a month.
She said calls vary on a weekly basis, but now there’s times during a 12-hour shift – day or night – that officers may attend at least three or four overdose calls.
When she first started, Wall said the drug of choice seemed to be PCP or cocaine, as well as alcohol. Over the past couple of years she’s seen an increase in crystal meth and fentanyl use.
“(Fentanyl is) a drug that I didn’t expect to run into in my career that has impacted so many people’s lives. And it’s not typically just the person who’s the victim. It’s the families that are impacted by it,” Wall told reporters Friday.
“It’s not a certain variety or a certain class of people that are being impacted by this drug. This drug is impacting every class, whether it be someone that’s a student, whether it be someone that works at a restaurant type of environment or (someone) that has a professional occupation.”
Wall said over the past few months, she and other officers have responded to more overdoses and there has been an increase in fatal cases.
Wall said officers also have to respond to family members who are reacting to stressful and tragic situations.
“Sometimes you have somebody just sitting there quietly, or somebody can become extremely violent and very agitated and try to fight us,” Wall said.
She explained sometimes the officers’ job is to protect EMS workers if need be, or to comfort family members experiencing grief.
There are times when officers may need to administer more than one dose of Narcan for an individual to become alert.
Wall recalled one instance where a man was overdosing in a car and required three doses of Narcan to wake up.
She has seen up to five doses of Narcan used in another instance.
RPS is asking the public to educate themselves, family and friends on the dangers of drug use.
The police service is also telling the public not to let someone use drugs alone and learn about naloxone and how to get a free take-home kit.
The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides some legal protection for people who seek help while experiencing or witnessing an overdose.
Wall said this is a public safety concern.
“It’s a social issue that we have… adding more first responders… is not going to be the solution,” Wall said.
“It has to be a community-involved approach,” she said, where the individuals that are addicted to drugs get the help they need.
She added there needs to be a public safety effort put into finding solutions, including family members acting as advocates and working in partnership with outreach programs for addictions and counselling.
“I think we all as a community have a role to play in this, and we all are responsible for coming up with solutions and working together to try to decrease drugs that are out there on the street and that are killing people.”