Record high EMS drug responses in Lethbridge

Lethbridge EMS responded to the highest number of drug-related events last month than in any other January over the last 5 years.

Earlier this 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 January 2022. Hospitalization and SCS usage data haven’t been updated beyond September 2021, and deaths haven’t been updated since October.

My last story on EMS in Lethbridge had EMS data up to December. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to 40 opioid-related events during January.

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

September 2021 stats are for 3 weeks. The other Septembers are for 4 weeks.

Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers broke the previous high of 25, set in 2019, by a long shot and was 4 times as high as the record low of 10, set in 2020.

If February and March see similar numbers, we could see 120 responses, 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, even just one month into the first quarter, and Lethbridge has already surpassed the number of drug responses EMS responded to in the entire first quarter of 2020.

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 journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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