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Awareness and education keys to fixing opioid crisis: opioid task force

The Community Opioid Task Force is hoping to continue the conversation about the opioid crisis. It has come up with a list of recommendations designed to cut down on the impact of their use in Grande Prairie. Community Social Development Manager Angela Sutherland says the suggestions centre around education, awareness and being inclusive.

“Some of the recommendations were around the coordination and collaboration in terms of public education, community resources and awareness. It was also mentioned some of the key themes around that too were making sure that we’re recognizing that this is a community issue and that we have to be more intentional around including and being inclusive.”

The Community Opioid Task Force was started by Mayor Bill Given in December 2017. It is made up of representatives from the business community, school boards, RCMP, social service agencies and the health department. Its goal was to create a plan to deal with the crisis.

According to a report by the government called Opioids and Substances of Misuse: Alberta Report, Grande Prairie had the highest rate of fentanyl overdose-related deaths among the largest municipalities in Alberta in 2017.

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So far in 2018, the report shows that the rate of fentanyl-related opioid poisoning deaths in the city has decreased, with the highest rates being reported in Red Deer and Lethbridge.

Even with that decrease, Alberta Health Services recently issued a warning after it says EMS workers responded to 20 overdose calls since the evening of January 26th. One of those overdoses led to a death. Now more than ever, Sutherland says people need to start talking about opioids.

“As a community, we need to come together and really talk about this, cause part of the education and awareness around it is also the stigma around opioid use… We want people talking about it, we want people to start the conversation and [know] that it does affect the community as a whole, it’s not just a segment of the population.”

The recommendations will now be taken to the next council meeting for approval. If they are, Sutherland and the task force will decide how to put them into place.

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