Medicine Hat, Alberta – In a media release issued by the Government of Alberta on February 7, 2017 it was identified that fentanyl and other opioids continue to have a deadly impact on Alberta communities.
“Last year, 343 people died of apparent drug overdoses related to fentanyl in this province as compared to 257 in 2015. In the last three months of 2016, there were 111 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Alberta. That compares to 81 in the previous quarter and 52 in the fourth quarter of 2015.”
As a community Medicine Hat has not been immune to the opioid crisis. Just recently the MHPS confirmed the first documented seizure in Medicine Hat of the dangerous synthetic opioid, carfentanil. Carfentanil is an analog of the synthetic opioid fentanyl but is 100 times more potent then fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent then morphine. Carfentanil was originally developed as a large animal sedative. One or two small grains of the substance can cause a fatal overdose in humans. In this particular case the carfentanil was mixed with powdered caffeine similar in color and texture to cocaine.
In response to this growing concern to public safety, the Medicine Hat Police Service has taken proactive measure to protect the health and safety of police personnel and the community. Front line officers have been provided with personal protective equipment to wear anytime they have to handle an unknown drug or substance and now carry a dose of naloxone, an antidote for opioid exposure and overdose.
The naloxone is administered as a nasal spray. The program intent is twofold in that the officers have treatment available should they themselves be exposed to an opioid, but also for use as a treatment for those they may encounter who have overdosed. Since the program was put in place approximately 6 weeks ago, naloxone has been administered by MHPS officers to two individuals presenting symptoms of opioid overdose. In both cases the individuals were transported to hospital and later released.
In addition, the Service has made arrangements for the purchase of a fume hood to be installed in the exhibit processing area of the MHPS facility. The hood is designed to trap and remove small particles from the air while drug exhibits are processed by staff. These are particles that may otherwise become airborne and inhaled by staff and potentially circulated throughout the building.
The total cost of these improvements is approximately $25,000, paid for from the police operating budget.
Medicine Hat Police Service