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Other provinces have also seen a rise in overdose deaths in recent months, Luan said in a news release Wednesday, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of many Albertans.
In a Thursday statement, Kassandra Kitz, a spokeswoman for Luan’s office, said the province is “continuing to monitor opioid fatalities in the province closely and making investments where they are needed most.”
“The impact of COVID-19 on people struggling with substance use is being seen across the country, largely due to an inability to access treatment and supports that they depend on, but also due to additional stress and mental-health challenges,” said Kitz.
Kitz touted government investments, such as the $53-million COVID-19 mental-health and addiction action plan, and a $4-million investment to expand access to the province’s virtual opioid dependency program. The government is also adding more than 4,000 government-funded addictions treatment beds.
Dr. Rebecca Haines-Saah, a University of Calgary professor who specializes in substance use and harm reduction, said the government’s investment into treatment and recovery is welcomed. But she said it fails to address immediate needs of the community.
“There has been federal endorsement of what we call safe supply options, so providing people with a pharmaceutical-grade medication that would replace the hazardous drug supply, and that is not being taken up in Alberta due to lack of provincial support,” said Haines-Saah.
Luan has previously told Postmedia the Kenney government is “not entertaining any proposals using taxpayer money to buy drugs to sustain any form of addiction.”
He also said they are “laser-focused” on treatment and recovery, and “anything less” wouldn’t be considered by the UCP.
Kitz declined to provide an update on the future of the province’s supervised consumption sites following a government-ordered review into their services last year.