Safe Consumption trailer coming to the Blood Reserve to help combat opioid crisis

By Aaron Mahoney (@Mahones93 on Twitter)
March 5, 2018 - 1:57pm

STANDOFF - After Blood Tribe Chief Roy Fox and Council called a state of emergency on Friday, Mar. 2, the reserve saw no overdose calls in a 72-hour period and more help is on the way.

In front of a large crowd at Red Crow Community College Monday morning, Blood Tribe Department of Health CEO Kevin Cowan announced a safe consumption trailer will be coming to the reserve as a temporary measure to help deal with the crisis.

Cowan says the trailer will be on the reserve for a month and will be monitored frequently to gauge the impact it's having.

"We're working with both Alberta Health Services and ARCHES. ARCHES will be providing staff for the trailer that's being brought in from Calgary. It's to give users a safe place to use the drugs because what we're about right now is saving lives," Cowan says.

Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, another speaker at the event, talked about the scene on the reserve just two weekends ago when a bad batch of drugs was so strong it actually took eight vials of naloxone just to snap a person out of their overdose.

In lieu of that, Cowan believes the most important thing is saving lives.

"We have wellness staff, community health staff, and harm reduction staff working really hard with the key focus during this period on saving lives," he continued. "We feel that the consumption site is just another tool in the toolbox for achieving that goal."

Cowan wanted to make clear just how grateful they are to be getting this support.

"The timing is key as well since the safe consumption site in Lethbridge just opened last week. We have an opportunity to work with their staff as they'll be sending out three nurses who will work at key times, and hopefully, we can save some more lives."

Cowan also added that the trailer coming to the reserve coincided with the state of emergency being called.

"It was Alberta Health that reached out to us initially and said this is another tool you can have because frankly, we've been very busy doing all the work here over the past week. The support we've gotten from AHS, and the federal government too, has been significant here and we're very appreciative," Cowan said, adding they're also very appreciative to the staff of ARCHES for stepping up and helping them out.

This past week has also seen a number of meetings between health and emergency personnel and members of the community to talk about the issues on the reserve.

"Just over the past weekend, we held a number of information and training sessions to teach people how to use naloxone kits. We'll be continuing those sessions this week, and AHS is here to help us with that piece as staff and nurses are here helping us do the training," Cowan said.

On Friday, Cowan told local media they had 30 overdoses in the past seven days which included at least one death.

"I think the reason we're getting so much support is this could've been 30 deaths last weekend, instead of just one and it's because of the work of our Blood Tribe Department of Health, our EMS and our police."

In some ways Cowan believes they need to celebrate what's being done right that's helped save lives while continuing to educate people on what services are available to them.

"At the same time it's been a tremendous strain on so many in our community, so we have to keep working," Cowan stated.

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