#Alberta; #OpiodRelatedDeathsSurge; #Covid19Pandemic; #ChangeOfRules
Alberta/Canadian-Media: New data released by the Alberta government Friday and information published on a new government substance abuse surveillance website shows the drastic effect of COVID-19 pandemic on people's ability to manage their addictions resulting in record-breaking number deaths due to opioid in 2020, media reports said.
Jason Luan. Image credit: Facebook Page
"For people who suffer addictions and mental health illness, it just made their life even more difficult," said Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, in a Thursday interview, CBC News reported.
In the first 10 months of 2020, 904 people died of opioid poisoning in Alberta — more than the total in any year since tracking began in 2016.
Luan said his heart sank when he saw the most recent numbers.
"Every life lost is too many," he said. "Those are the people who are family members, colleagues, members of our community. It's awful."
Initially, public health rules prevented support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous from holding indoor meetings and their use of illegal street drugs jumped, the data show.
Those meetings are now allowed, with masks and physical distancing in place.
Services also have now adapted offering virtual therapy and counselling sessions around the clock, Luan said and later Alberta's chief medical health officer approved unique pandemic operating rules for these facilities.
The provincial government's Friday launch of the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System, will now update new data monthly, rather than every three months and has changed reporting of opioid related deaths such as information on people who died from alcohol poisoning and other substance misuse.
Users can look at data from nine publicly run opioid treatment clinics and look up ambulance calls, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths by urban center.
Eventually, data on residential addictions treatment centers would be added to the dashboard to facilitate users to see how many treatment spaces are available and how many participants have completed publicly funded programs.
Luan said it's the most detailed and comprehensive public data set in the country and hopes this would facilitate the government and the public to quickly see if their policy decisions are effective, or these need to be modified.