Group of doctors makes opioid crisis policy recommendations to Alberta government

Click to play video: 'Doctors bring forth ideas for dealing with Alberta’s opioid crisis'
Doctors bring forth ideas for dealing with Alberta’s opioid crisis
WATCH ABOVE: A group of Edmonton doctors has a few recommendations on how to tackle Alberta's opioid crisis. As Morgan Black reports, everyone is looking for answers as Alberta enters what could be another deadly year – Apr 7, 2022

A group of doctors has a few recommendations on how to tackle Alberta’s opioid poisoning crisis.

The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s opioid poisoning committee says it would like to see the province broaden access to supervised consumption sites, focus on providing a supply of regulated drugs to people and also work with the federal government to decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use.

“There are no silver bullets,” Dr. Ginetta Salvalaggio said on Thursday. “It has to be considered as a problem that requires multiple interventions. They have to be implemented as a package.”

The doctors also noted data can be a critical tool in the crisis. The committee wants the province to include more frequent updates and specific neighbourhood locations. Salvalaggio noted that kind of data was included in more frequent reports until 2020.

“The public doesn’t have the data they need to mobilize in an effective response,” Salvalaggio said. “We applaud the (province’s) efforts to optimize the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System. We do know that the platform has the potential to be more powerful.”

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In a statement to Global Edmonton, the spokesperson for the associate ministry of mental health and addictions said the Alberta government’s data is confirmed through toxicology reports through the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner prior to publishing.

“We have no interest in publishing unverified data,” Eric Engler said.

In response to the committee’s other recommendations, Engler said the province is awaiting its own “safe supply” report, but doesn’t view the program favourably.

“(Our select special committee) heard from a variety of experts on this issue, many of whom have made clear that there is no evidence to support this practice, and in fact there is a mountain of evidence that shows the more opioids there are in the community, the more harms the community suffers,” he said.

When it comes to decriminalization, the spokesperson said “while Alberta’s government does not believe in criminalizing a health-care issue, you cannot simply take away penalties and expect things to get better.”

The province is currently working with Boyle Street Community Services to set up a new overdose prevention service.

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The opioid poisoning committee said its recommendations follow consultations with front-line and policy experts, people who use drugs and their family members as well as available peer-reviewed literature and epidemiology.

In 2021, Alberta recorded 1,771 poisoning deaths. It is the deadliest year ever recorded in the province.

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