Lethbridge sees record EMS drug responses

Lethbridge EMS responded to the highest number of drug-related events last month than in any other February 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 February 2022. Hospitalization and SCS usage data haven’t been updated beyond September 2021, and deaths haven’t been updated since October.

(Since I wrote this story, the Alberta government has updated the tool to include SCS, hospitalization, and death data to the end of 2021. I am working on a new article that will offer a comprehensive analysis of this data. Watch for it soon!)

My last story on EMS in Lethbridge had EMS data up to January. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to 41 opioid-related events, which is higher than what we saw the previous month.

This is a record number of calls, compared to the previous 4 years.


Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers broke the previous high of 39, set in 2018 (before the supervised consumption site opened), and was 5 times as high as the record low of 8, set in 2020.

If March sees similar numbers, we could have 120 responses in the first quarter of 2022 This which would be the highest number of drug responses of any first quarter since 2018. It could also end up being the second highest quarter on record, after last year’s record-breaking third quarter.


As you can see, just two months into the first quarter, Lethbridge has already surpassed the number of drug responses EMS responded to in any first quarter of the previous four years.

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.

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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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