Drug Safety Action Plan

Resolution Year: 
2017

WHEREAS The current drug addiction and fentanyl overdose epidemic is having devastating consequences for individuals and communities in Alberta;

WHEREAS Substance abuse is a serious public safety issue;

WHEREAS Opioid overdose deaths are a public health crisis in Alberta. In 2016, 343 deaths were related to fentanyl overdoses, and the rate of visits to Alberta emergency departments for opioid poisoning was 57 per cent higher in Alberta than in Ontario; and

WHEREAS Substance abuse results in broken families, suicides, overdoses and crime.

THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Association of Police Governance urges the Government of Alberta to commit to the creation of a coordinated action plan that brings together all relevant sectors from across the Province (policing, health, housing, education, First Nations) to address substance abuse on all fronts.

Background: 

Drug use and drug trafficking are contributing to crime, social disorder, and community crisis. The rates of overdose deaths are rising in Alberta, and drugs like meth, crack cocaine, and fentanyl are also linked to increasing property and violent crime. Gang violence and shootings are also in part motivated by drugs.

The death rate of illicit fentanyl, its addictive qualities and potential for profit far exceed anything seen before and underscore the urgency to coordinate efforts among key sectors across Alberta.

Municipal police cannot arrest themselves out of the problem. To be effective, partners need to explore how enforcement efforts can complement prevention, harm reduction, and treatment. New strategies must be developed in response to the changing face of drug overdoses and addiction. An effective drug strategy must focus on prevention, education, intervention, treatment, enforcement, and research/analysis.

Alberta Health Services and community partners provide a range of harm reduction programs and services that assist individuals, families and communities to reduce the risk and adverse consequences of psychoactive substance use. For example, in February 2017 the Alberta government announced that it will make Naloxone opioid antidote kits available to all first-responders, and to the public, without prescriptions, announced plans to open an opioid dependency treatment clinic in Grande Prairie, and allocated $730,000 in grants to support agencies in several communities, including Edmonton and Calgary, to establish supervised consumption sites.

Clearly work is already underway in a number of sectors. However, now is the time to bring together all the relevant decision-makers to create a collaborative, comprehensive, evidence-based plan that identifies timely, concrete actions that will deliver clear results.

Response: 

Ministry of Children's Services: The Ministry of Health leads Alberta's opioid response and recently established a Minister's Opioid Emergency Response Commission (Commission), which includes representation by law enforcement, Indigenous communities, harm-reduction program experts, and parent advocates. Children's Services' role is to work closely with partners to address the opioid crisis from the perspective of high-risk youth and families. The ministry is a member of Health's cross-sector Urgent Opioid Response Coordinating Committee, which will be connecting to the work of the Commission.

Ministry of Indigenous Relations: Opioids such as fentanyl, are having a critical impact on Indigenous peoples, families, and communities in Alberta. The Ministries of Health, and Justice and Solicitor General, are working to bring people and organizations together to address the opioid issue in Alberta through the Minister's Opioid Emergency Response Commission. Representatives from my ministry have engaged Indigenous communities and organizations, including a representative from the Edmonton Police Service, to develop Recommendations for Action. These will be used to inform the work of the Commission led by the office of Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Ministry of Health: Since 2015, Alberta Health has been responding to the disproportionate number of opioid-related overdose deaths, particularly fentanyl. Our primary focus has been on harm reduction initiatives such as the take-home naloxone kit program. Over 19,500 naloxone kits have been distributed to Albertans as of May 31, 2017, and over 1,200 sites have registered with Alberta Health Services to distribute these kits.
Progress has also been made in efforts to have supervised consumption services available in Alberta. These health services are targeted toward chronic substance users, many of whom are vulnerable, marginalized, and often homeless individuals. A federal exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is needed to offer supervised consumption services and three applications for six locations in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge were submitted to Health Canada in early May 2017.
We know the health sector alone cannot solve the opioid crisis. Instead, an integrated and collaborative approach that includes enforcement, policing, and other public safety sectors, public health and health care will have greater positive impact for Albertans. On May 31, 2017, I announced the establishment of a 14-member emergency response commission to help ramp up Alberta's ability to respond to the opioid crisis. The commission includes diverse voices from groups affected by the opioid crisis - Indigenous communities, harm-reduction program experts, parent advocates, law enforcement, and people who use drugs. Staff Sgt. Jason Walker, Calgary Police Service, represents the law enforcement perspective, and Bill Sweeney, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Public Security Division, is the representative from Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.
The focus of the commission's work will be in six strategic areas: Harm Reduction Initiatives, Treatment, Prevention, Enforcement and Supply Control, Engagement and Collaboration, and Surveillance and Analytics. The commission will meet frequently over the summer and regularly for the next year to ensure our aggressive and coordinated approach will continue to focus on getting Albertans who use substances the help they need. More information about the commission and its members is available at www.alberta.ca/albertas-opioid-crisis-response.aspx