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Lethbridge EMS drug responses last month 2nd highest Sep on record

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 September 2022. Hospitalization and SCS usage data haven’t been updated beyond June, and deaths haven’t been updated since July.

My last story on EMS in Lethbridge had EMS data up to August. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to an additional 21 opioid-related events, making September 2022 tied for the second highest September of the last 5 years.

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

September
201818
201916
202014
202134
202221

Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers were down significantly from the previous September., but still higher than the other 3 years on record.

As well, during the first 12 months after the SCS closed down in August 2020, Lethbridge saw 358 opioid-related events that EMS responded to. This is the highest number of such events during the same period over the last 4 years.

Sep 2018–Aug 2019236
Sep 2019–Aug 2020269
Sep 2020–Aug 2021358
Sep 2021–Aug 2022308

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 308 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, September’s numbers were lower than both July’s and August’s and tied with June’s.

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

20182019202020212022
Jan1425101440
Feb391782341
Mar1913144317
Apr4112151412
May3816202812
Jun3520492721
Jul3528565223
Aug2410424924
Sep1816143521

With September’s numbers in, we can also look at total third quarter stats. In the third quarter of 2022, Lethbridge EMS responded to a total of 68 drug-related events. That’s the second lowest number of any third quarter over the last 5 years.

But as far as this year goes, this is the second highest quarter so far.

One thing to keep in mind when reading these statistics 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 journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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