ARCHES dealing with impact of new batch of opioids in Lethbridge

By Aaron Mahoney (@Mahones93 on Twitter)
January 8, 2019 - 11:11am

LETHBRIDGE – For a city already dealing with a drug crisis, the bulletin from Lethbridge Police on Monday, Jan. 7, about a bad batch of opioids that had made its way into the city wasn’t positive news.

But for the organization tasked with trying to deal with the crisis, it wasn’t news at all.

“Actually, we generally know of it before we hear about in the news or anything because we see the reflection in increased overdoses in the corresponding days and even the days before,” said ARCHES Director of Operations Jill Manning.

“For example, we saw 11 overdoses just on Sunday during the day shift, so we knew there was something new,” Manning explained. “We’re also the first ones to see what the actual drugs look like, so when there are changes to the composition of the drugs, we’re often the first to know.”

There is a new substance that appears to be popping up on the street that ARCHES believe is what’s causing this bad batch.

“They’re calling it red heroin, we don’t have a drug testing apparatus at the facility so it’s impossible for us to know exactly what it is, but it’s likely fentanyl or carfentanil,” Manning stated, adding it’s red in colour which is very new.

Police responded to two suspected overdose deaths between Sunday and Monday, with officers believing the extremely potent batch of opioids was the cause.

When a situation like this arises, Manning says it doesn’t really change what the response from ARCHES is around the medical perspective because Naloxone is kind of the go-to in terms of response to opioids.

“We can certainly warn our clients that there is something bad that’s out there, particularly if we see that it’s that substance. For instance, if we make the correlation that we’ve had four people go down from this new red heroine, and then someone else comes in with it, we can certainly give them a heads up and warn them that they might want to try a smaller dose.

“Kind of test drive their drugs as we call it, but ultimately that decision is theirs. We can certainly make recommendations, but we can’t prescribe what people use.”

Local police have advised anyone using opioids do so at the Supervised Consumption Site or have Naloxone and someone with the ability to administer it nearby.

Compounding the issue is an incident that took place outside of the SCS on Sunday evening, where a man fired off a pellet gun outside the west doors.

Manning isn’t worried about any negativity that may come, because, at the end of the day, she says they know they’re providing a legitimate health care service.

“We know what the data and research say to back us, and we see the lives that we’re impacting and making a difference with. It’s one of those things where we have to keep our heads down and do the work that we know is meaningful and remember that often times it’s the vocal minority that is the loudest because we also know we have a widespread support base in town as well,” Manning said.

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