The Province of Alberta announced an opioid action plan in hopes of saving lives. They will implement a range of new tools to address overdoses and deaths related to fentanyl and other opioids. 

This plan announced Thursday expands upon $7 million already invested in addictions treatment programs and recovery beds this year.

As of September 30, 2016, 193 people died of apparent fentanyl-related overdoses in Alberta. This compares to 205 overdoses related to fentanyl in Alberta in the previous year.

The province is asking the Chief Medical Officer of Health to take further action to expand access to harm reduction services, including opioid replacement therapy.

“Evidence supports harm reduction strategies as an effective way to address opioid misuse,” said Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Chief Medical Officer of Health in a news release. “We can increase Albertans’ access to opioid replacement therapy by strengthening supports for primary care physicians and Primary Care Networks to provide this care.  And by working with community organizations like [Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton (AMSISE)] we will better understand how supervised consumption services might fit in our overall harm reduction strategy.”

In Alberta 65 physicians are licensed to provide methadone and about 160 are licensed to provide suboxone for people with opioid replacement therapy. Over the next few weeks, AHS clinics in Edmonton and Calgary will identify stable clients and connect them to a doctor for ongoing treatment.

The province is also allocating funds to explore the need for supervised consumption sites.  Officials say these locations have proven to prevent overdose deaths and improve access to medical and social supports to vulnerable people, and they are not found to increase drug use and criminal activity.

In addition the province will improve the collection and publishing of data to better target interventions, while improving prescription drug monitoring and implementing new tools to prevent drug misuse. 

“These new measures will make a difference for families who need help for loved ones struggling with addiction,” Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said in a press release. “We are working closely with our community partners and affected families to ensure we are making the right investments.  Together, everyone in Alberta needs to be part of the conversation on how we treat and support people living with addiction.”

The provinces new initiatives are in addition to other plans already put in place to help reduce the amount of overdoses and deaths related to fentanyl and other opioids.