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Come As You Are: Working with rural communities to reduce opioid poisonings December 3, 2021 @8:45am

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There is no denying that death rates from opioid poisonings have skyrocketed over the past few years in our province, including in rural communities. From only January 2021 – August 2021, 1,026 lives have been taken in this crisis. This year will surely be the worst ever recorded for overdose rates. As a comparison, in 2020 there were 859 deaths during the same time.

Although restrictions and border closings during the pandemic have played a part in the increasing death rates, the overwhelming majority are from a toxic supply of illicit substances, namely fentanyl and its derivatives. This is not a debate of morality or bad choices; this is an issue of contaminated drugs that are unregulated. More often than not, they are deemed accidental, which compounds each of these tragedies. When people have no idea of what they are buying and consuming, it is impossible to measure doses accurately, which significantly increases the risk of opioid poisoning. There are no consistent quality control measures to prevent consuming too much of an illicit substance. There is currently no option to purchase legally, which ensures the black market continues to thrive.

Consider that every one of those 1026 deaths had people that cared for and loved them in profound ways. Losing someone to this crisis has enormous ripple effects for family, friends and communities. We can no longer push this issue aside and believe that this happens to “other” people. Children are without parents, and alternatively, many parents are grieving the loss of a child. This is an entire generation of young, otherwise healthy people we are losing or who are at risk. 53% of deaths in Alberta were in the 20 – 30 age range.

Turning Point works to mobilize rural community preparedness and response in the event of an opioid poisoning. We do that in several ways, often by training and supplying Naloxone kits to drug users as well as the broader public, businesses, even in schools. Education is essential to greater awareness and we can provide presentations on this topic to any groups that are interested. Often our work is linking people affected by a loss to relevant supports and bereavement groups specific to opioid poisonings. We aim to support individuals and rural communities by providing education in non-judgemental ways to prevent these tragedies, involvement with advocacy and various ways to cope with grief. Please reach out if you are in need of support.

Jenn McCrindle, Rural Outreach

Turning Point


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