Blood Tribe declares state of emergency after spate of overdoses

By Lara Fominoff @LaraFominoff on Twitter
March 2, 2018 - 4:14pm

LETHBRIDGE - Blood Tribe Chief Roy Fox and Council met in Lethbridge Friday (Mar. 2), to determine a course of action and declare a state of emergency on the reserve after a week of overdoses.

Chief executive of the Band's Health Department, Kevin Cowan, told media there have been at least 30 overdoses in the last seven days, including at least one death.

"Over the weekend... we had 150 ambulance calls, and [EMS] ran hard. If you look at the last week now, that would be as much as they would typically do in a month."

Cowan says the reserve now has four fully staffed ambulances on the road, to deal with the large number of overdoses and drug-related issues. One ambulance was purchased recently, while another was secured from the Siksika First Nation Thursday evening (Mar.1).

The province has provided some coordination services to this point, but Fox says they're looking for more help, along with $750,000 the tribe will put aside to help deal with overtime, additional staffing costs and other measures they plan to take.

"The Blood Tribe shall actively seek Federal and Provincial funding, and all other funding and related sources to combat the current and escalating drug problem and the subsequent dangers to the lives and to the health and welfare of the members of the Blood Tribe."

Cowan says the band has just received 210 naloxone kits in time for the weekend, and a training session will be held Saturday (Mar. 3) for those interested in learning how to administer it.

"We have community health staff that have been deployed to actually provide additional education, hopefully to those most in need in the community. But other departments... our security or whoever needs it frankly, will be shown how to inject, how to use the naloxone."

He adds that naloxone has been somewhat of a saving grace, explaining that several years ago, the 30 overdoses would likely have been 30 deaths.

"It's a terrible crisis. Everybody's working hard and there's a lot of hurt and pain in the community and we see that. But we're saving lives, and that's what health is trying to do right now."

Alberta Health Services is also setting up a team of mental health officials to quickly respond, if those additional resources are requested.

In Lethbridge, there have also been at least 52 overdoses in the last 10 days, bringing the total including the Blood Reserve more than 80. Emergency and health officials believe either a bad batch of drugs, or drugs laced with high levels of fentanyl or carfentanil are to blame.

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