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Lethbridge 1st quarter EMS drug responses hits new record

Lethbridge EMS responded to the highest number of drug-related events during the 1st quarter of 2022 than in any other 1st quarter over the last 5 years.

Last week, the Government of Alberta updated the data on the Alberta substance use surveillance system, which it uses to communicate information about substance use in the province.

The new data includes EMS responses to opioid-related events up to the end of March 2022. Hospitalization and SCS usage data haven’t been updated beyond December 2021, and deaths haven’t been updated since January.

My last story on EMS in Lethbridge had EMS data up to February. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to an additional 17 opioid-related events, making the first quarter of 2022 the highest first quarter of the last 5 years.

Here’s how each March fared during the same period.

March
201819
201913
202014
202143
202217

Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers were down significantly from last March. In fact, we went from the highest number of EMS responses last year for any March to the third highest this March.

Here are the numbers by quarter.

20182019202020212022
Q17255328098
Q2114488469
Q37754112136
Q477397397

As you can see, during the first quarter of 2022, Lethbridge surpassed the number of drug responses EMS responded to in any first quarter of the previous four years. Plus, it was the 4th highest quarter seen in the city during the same period.

As well, during the 12 months since the SCS closed down in August 2020, Lethbridge saw 358 opioid-related events that EMS have responded to. This is the highest number of such events during the same period over the last 3 years.

Sep 2018–Aug 2019236
Sep 2019–Aug 2020269
Sep 2020–Aug 2021358

In the 12 months since the SCS was closed due to the UCP government cancelling funding, Lethbridge EMS responded to an average of 29.8 drug responses a month, up from 22.3 during the same 12-month period the previous year. They also increased from 5.1 reponses per week, on average, to 6.9 per week.

While we’re only 6 months into the second year since the SCS was shut down, we’ve already seen 195 EMS responses to drug events and are on track to surpass the first year. If we see similar numbers in the second half, we’ll hit 390 EMS responses, 8.9% higher than the year before.

Last month was the first month since last July that EMS responded to a lower number of drug events than they did during the same month of the previous year. Every other month was higher than the year before.

And there’s no indication that last month’s numbers—although lower—are part of a declining trend.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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