'Grim reality': More Alberta youth dying from opioids, says report by child and youth advocate

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A record number of Albertans under 25 died from accidental opioid poisoning last year, and the province is on track to surpass that peak, says a report from the child and youth advocate.

The report, released by Del Graff on Wednesday morning, says 95 young people under 25 died last year as a result of accidental opioid poisoning, exceeding the previous peak of 85 deaths in 2017. Twenty-two deaths were reported in the first two months of this year, and if that pace continues the province will surpass the 2020 numbers, the report says.

Graff said the opioid crisis has gotten worse since the release of a similar report in 2018.

“An increasingly toxic and unregulated drug supply, combined with persistent gaps in prevention, intervention, and recovery supports, is endangering Alberta’s young people,” he said.

“The grim reality is that our young people are dying in even greater numbers today than when we
brought this issue into focus nearly three years ago.”

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Graff recommends the creation of a panel, committee or commission to create a strategy that would see youth receive a more comprehensive and coordinated range of services to address opioid and substance use.

“This strategy ought to encompass a continuum of services spanning primary prevention, early intervention, harm reduction, treatment, and aftercare,” the report says.

“Agreements or memorandums of understanding around how the strategy will inform the policies and practices of youth-serving ministries and agencies should be established.”

It also calls for the strategy to include a clear focus on Indigenous young people.

More to come

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