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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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.”