Blood Tribe overdoses up 86 per cent in 2018: Report

A recent report released by health officials shows an 86 per cent increase in opioid overdoses on the Blood Tribe between 2017 and 2018.

The Blood Tribe Health Department reported 335 overdoses in 2018, a significant jump from the 180 overdoses reported in 2017.

It shows an alarming trend for the tribe in the midst of fighting an epidemic of overdoses as carfentanil — a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than fentanyl — has flooded the reserve.

There has been a significant spike in overdose numbers for the tribe since 2014, when only 30 overdoses were reported.

Numbers in the report show that November 2018 was the worst month since tracking started in 2014, with 59 overdoses reported. That dipped to 40 in December.

The dip comes on the heels of a provincial funding announcement of $2.2-million to be pledged over two years for a recovery program on the Blood Tribe.

Under the program, Blood Tribe paramedics will have the option of transporting overdose patients directly to a treatment site where they can recover and receive resources and programs to help them get clean.

Kevin Cowan, chief executive officer of the Blood Tribe department of health, said the announcement left him “speechless” and believes the program will have a significant positive impact on the community.

“This will make a huge difference for us here — having those paramedics on 24-7 providing a service to people that simply weren’t getting that service,” he said.

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Cowan told Postmedia in November how EMS staff on the reserve are frequently using naloxone kits to reverse the effects of an overdose before bringing patients to hospital, only to have them “quickly released” before repeating “the same pattern and overdose again.”

“Bringing them to the hospital is not working for us, for the community,” he said.

Email: zlaing@postmedia.com | On Twitter: @zjlaing

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