Lethbridge EMS drug responses on the rise again

Lethbridge EMS responded to the lowest number of drug-related events during July 2022 than in any other July over the last 5 years, but the number of drug responses have increased in each of the last two 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 July 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 June. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to an additional 23 opioid-related events, making July 2022 the lowest July of the last 5 years.

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


Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers were down significantly from the previous July. In fact, this marks two consecutive years in a row where the July EMS response numbers have dropped, hitting a new record low.

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 11 months into the second year since the SCS was shut down, we’ve already seen 263 EMS responses to drug events, which is more than we saw the first year. It’s also only 4 fewer than we saw during the second year, and we still have another month to go.

That being said, our monthly average over the last 11 months has been 23.9 drug events that EMS have responded to. If that average continues, Lethbridge could see 287 events that EMS will have responded to.

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

As well, July’s numbers were higher than June’s, increasing by 2. In fact, it was the highest number of drug responses by EMS since February and the third highest of any month this year.

That being said, Lethbridge had been seeing a declining trend since March.

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, as I already pointed out, despite it having increased over June.


One thing to keep in mind, however, is that just because EMS are responding to relatively fewer drug events 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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