Dr. David Swann Member Statement, May 25th

Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann rose in the Legislature today to deliver the following statement:

“The opiate death crisis is unprecedented, ripping apart families of all socio-economic groups, including First Nations.

“The continual and dramatic increases in opioid deaths since 2013, are extremely saddening given that they are preventable. While we see increased investment it is not clear that mental health experts are leading, what the overall strategy is, and how current efforts are being evaluated since there has been no analysis and public report.

“Last year, we had 363 deaths due to fentanyl. And in the first three months of this year, 113 Albertans lost their lives, just to fentanyl – a 61% increase in deaths over the same period in 2016.

“We are starting to see the same disturbing trends here as in BC, but without acknowledging why we continue to lose ground even after 4 years. Nor have we chosen to call this a public health emergency to mobilize all related resources. This is a mistake.

“B.C.’s declaration of a public health state of emergency led to resources being mobilized through the Health Ministry across government departments and between all stakeholders in a co-ordinated plan with monthly reporting on what is working and what is not.

“Alberta struggles to report quarterly on fentanyl and other opiate deaths. BC embraced early harm reduction measures while we have yet to see a single safe injection site in Alberta.

‘Naloxone kits are undoubtedly saving lives, and the Associate Minister yesterday admitted there were 1130 life-saving doses of naloxone given in the first 3 months of this year – that’s 13 near-deaths every day in Alberta! Clearly we are not getting ahead of this devastation.

“Wait times have improved for opiate replacement therapy but outside Edmonton and Calgary people seeking help continue to wait.

“Numbers are not enough. There is a troubling lack of analysis of what changes are needed and where for an accurate picture of this epidemic.

“Strong, new leadership from a mental health and addictions expert is needed who can focus and oversee an evidence-based and coordinated plan and overcome the silos.

“This terribly stigmatized illness needs a new approach and now is the time for the government to admit its approach isn’t working.

“This is the most important and preventable public health crisis of our time and the lives of our children- all Albertans- depend on us getting this right.”


CBC: Fentanyl overdoses killed 113 people in Alberta during first 3 months of year

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann renewed his call for the province to declare a public health emergency to deal with the growing problem.

“We are starting to see the same trends here as in British Columbia, but without our government taking the same emergency measures,” said Swann, a former medical officer of health in southern Alberta. “This is a mistake.”

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David Swann statement on 2017 first quarter opioid report, rising death toll

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the release of the 2017 first quarter opioid and substances of misuse report:

“The continual and dramatic increases in deaths since 2013, year-over-year and from quarter-to-quarter are extremely disturbing and saddening given that they are preventable. We are starting to see the same trends here as in British Columbia, but without our government taking the same emergency measures. This is a mistake.

“The opioid crisis requires strong, new leadership from a mental health and addictions expert who can develop and implement an evidence-based and coordinated plan that makes proper use all of the tools at the government’s disposal.

“Therefore, I am renewing my call to declare a state of emergency, and the reinstatement of the Chief Addictions and Mental Health Officer. Increased public education is also needed as well as improved access to harm reduction, including opiate replacement therapy and safe injection sites. And, we must make these resources more readily available, especially outside of our major urban areas.

“I am also troubled by the manner in which this report was made available. As was the case with the interim report, I find it highly disrespectful to concerned Albertans to release such important information without formal commentary from the Minister on a Friday afternoon, and, in this case, just ahead of a long weekend.

“It hints at an NDP government that is more concerned about biding its time, protecting its political skin, and avoiding accountability for a crisis that it clearly does not have a handle on despite its best efforts.

“With each quarterly report, we are seeing the death toll rise. Now, is the time for the government to admit its approach isn’t working, put away its pride, and join with all opposition caucuses and numerous stakeholders, and declare a state of emergency.

“Enough is enough! Our parents, children, brothers and sisters are dying around us. We must give this crisis all the resources available at our disposal if we ever hope to get ahead of this and save the lives of Albertans.”