Statement on International Overdose Awareness Day, 2017

“Today I join far too many Albertans in mourning those whose lives were cut short by drug overdoses, specifically fentanyl.

“With the skyrocketing pace of overdose deaths due to the ongoing opioid crisis, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers and lose track of the real cost in life and suffering.

“People struggling with addictions are not just junkies – each one is someone’s sibling, someone’s friend, someone’s child. Every death plunges a community into grief.

“On this day we remember those who have died of drug overdose not as statistics, not as addicts, but as fellow humans. We must work in their memory to break the stigma surrounding this disease, and make sure that those struggling with addiction in the future have the help they need.

“Of course, the single greatest way to raise overdose awareness would be for the NDP government to declare a state of emergency in response to the opioid crisis – something it has refused to do despite repeated calls from the opposition and stakeholders such as Moms Stop the Harm and Changing the Face of Addiction.

“Declaring a state of emergency would send a signal to every Albertan about the seriousness of the issue itself and the government’s commitment to putting all resources at its disposal to stop the needless deaths of so many of our friends and family.”

RDNewsNow: Alberta still seeing high number of opioid deaths

Liberal MLA Doctor David Swann is questioning why it’s taking so long for safe drug-injection site proposals to be reviewed.

Swann has repeatedly called on the province to declare a state of emergency over the opioid crisis and he says it’s time action was taken.

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David Swann statement on 2017 second quarter opioid report

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in response to the release of the 2017 second quarter opioid report:

“I am deeply troubled and saddened that another 119 Albertans tragically lost their lives in the last three months to opioid overdose.

“The number of people in the province dying from fentanyl overdoses each quarter remains unacceptably high. Over the past six months, fentanyl alone has taken 241 lives, and this number is projected to reach 480 by the end of year – and this without adding in deaths due to other opiates.

“This dramatic increase in fentanyl deaths over the previous year illustrates the fact that, despite its best efforts, the NDP government still does not have a handle on this mental illness and addiction crisis.

“While the report calls this year’s number of overdose deaths ‘significant,’ I find it horrifying, especially given that they are entirely preventable.

And, while the government claims the trend appears to be ‘stabilizing’ since there were three fewer deaths from the previous quarter, I see the overall number of deaths as further evidence of a lack of progress.

“In short, this report shows that the NDP government is failing to significantly improve access to harm reduction and treatment services.

“What Alberta need is an evidence-based, coordinated plan, including wrap-around housing, social and psychological services that makes proper use all of the tools at the government’s disposal. This includes declaring a state of emergency and treating the issue as such.

“Whatever the NDP may think about the technical aspects of it, the symbolism alone of calling this what it is, an emergency, will go a long way in addressing harmful stigma, creating awareness and mobilizing resources.

“We need increased public education campaigns for all demographics, improved access to harm reduction measures, and we need to make these resources more readily available, especially outside of our major urban areas. These wait times continue to be too long.

“As we approach two deaths per day, we still must wait months for federal approval of safe consumption sites. I keep asking: what is the holdup here? This is supposed to be a national emergency. It is time for our provincial and federal governments to treat it as such.”

Metro Calgary: Report shows opioid deaths in Alberta still climbing

“The big concern is that we’re not making progress … we need to be focusing more education and information around fentanyl as a lethal, very addictive substance,” said Liberal health critic and MLA for Calgary-Mountainview, Dr. David Swann. “This is a serious, serious crisis in Alberta. We need to do better.”

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Statement on Announcement to create an Opioid Emergency Response Commission

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the creation of an Opioid Emergency Response Commission:

“This announcement is a clear admission that the government’s piecemeal response to the opioid crisis has not been sufficient.

“There has been a dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths in Alberta over the last four years, claiming close to two lives per day. Thirteen deaths are being prevented daily by life-saving interventions.

“If this is not an emergency, I do not know what is. Yet the government still refuses to send a formal message to the public about the seriousness of this crisis by declaring a state of emergency.

“The minister repeatedly said it was not necessary because the government already had enough resources to deal with this crisis. Now, she claims this new plan will give her expanded powers, but it is unclear what they are, if they will be enough, and how this is superior to declaring a state of emergency.

“Instead of releasing a clear, comprehensive strategic plan with clearly defined targets, timelines, and accountability measures, the NDP chose to pass the buck to an advisory panel that will provide the minister with political cover.

“While the commission is comprised of accomplished experts, all of whom are standouts in their fields, surely the government has already consulted with these experts in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

“This is another level of bureaucracy that reports to the minister instead of guiding action on the frontlines, which is what the re-establishment of a chief mental health and addictions officer and the declaration of a state of emergency would do.

“At the very least, we should have received an update on the recommendations of the Valuing Mental Health Report submitted 16 months ago, several of which directly address this issue.”

CBC: Alberta government to announce ‘aggressive’ plan to tackle opioid crisis

David Swann, the leader of the Alberta Liberals, said he’s looking forward to hearing what the provincial government has planned.

“If they would work together more effectively in a comprehensive approach and a thoughtful plan and some ongoing evaluation of what’s happening, I would be happy,” Swann said.

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