Lethbridge EMS drug responses highest level since Feb

Lethbridge EMS responded to the second lowest number of drug-related events during August 2022 than in any other August over the last 5 years, but the number of drug responses have increased in each of the last three months.

Recently, 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 August 2022. Hospitalization and SCS usage data haven’t been updated beyond March, and deaths haven’t been updated since May.

My last story on EMS in Lethbridge had EMS data up to July. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to an additional 24 opioid-related events, making August 2022 tied for the second lowest August of the last 5 years.

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


Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers were down significantly from the previous August. In fact, this is the lowest level drug responses have been at in an August since 2019.

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.

During the second year since the SCS was shut down, we saw 291 EMS responses to drug events.

While that’s less than the 358 we saw between September 2020 and August 2021, it’s the second highest number seen during the same period over the last 4 years.

As well, August’s numbers were higher than both July’s and June’s, increasing by 1 and 3, respectively. In fact, it was the highest number of drug responses by EMS since February and the third highest of any month this year.

While both January and February of this year were the highest on record, March was the 3rd highest, April was tied for the lowest April on record. May and June were each the second lowest on record, despite June increasing over May, and July was the lowest July on record, despite it having increased over June.

August, however, was back at being the second lowest on record, but it was tied with another year (2018).


That being said, if the upward movement over the last 3 months becomes a longer trend, we may no longer see year-over-year decreases.

If September passes the 20-mark, for example, it’ll be the second highest September on record.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that just because EMS are responding to fewer drug events (compared to last year) doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer drug events.

For example, if more people are carrying naloxone on them or more groups outfitted with naloxone (such as SAGE Clan) are patrolling public areas where people are using drugs, they may attend to overdoses and see such success that EMS is never called.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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