Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne speaks with One News about the opiod crisis and its impacts on indigenous communities.
As the opioid crisis continues to impact Albertans heavily, One News spoke with Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne on the impacts of opioids.
Speaking to the impacts pertaining to indigenous communities, Payne addresses a report which came out near the end of 2017 which was done through a partnership with the Alberta First Nation Information Governance Centre, who currently hold the information in the report. She still states, "Ultimately, it put into two numbers, a lot of the things we had heard from a lot of communities, namely that First Nations are being very hard hit by the opioid overdose crisis, and that there's a need to have some culturally relevant and supportive methods of treatment as well as addressing the opioid crisis".
Payne also states the government is currently working with the Treaty 6 Agency to identify the needs of various communities needs during the opioid crisis. "We are really find that each individual nation and community is being impacted in so many different ways, and how we're trying to address the crisis in each community is really something we are trying to work with Indigenous leaders on" says Payne. She explains one of the things the government has done is a community specific granting process for community specific grants for organizations, done through the Opioid Response Commission.
Addressing some of the other supports the government is providing, Payne explains, "A key piece of it is making sure that when someone's ready for treatment they're able to access it as quickly as possible, so we have expanded access to treatment across the province" . On thing Payne admits she is proud of is the Rural Telehealth which gives people the oppourtunity to initiate suboxone or methadone treatments, which have been proven as highly effective for someone struggling with opioid addiction. The distribution of naloxone kits across the province and the introduction of safe consumption sites also stand as stepping stones for Minister Payne.
Payne admits there's not just one solution to the problem, but access to treatment and support systems are great helping factors. "It's so important just to help address just some of the immediate needs, but I think it is also important for us to address that we have those supports available for people to prevent other people from starting to use opioids" Payne states. Going into more detail, Payne says she is proud of the work done to make sure a patient is supported if they are prescribed opioids. She says, "For me the key metric is how quickly we are able to support someone who needs help, whether that means having some counselling available, access to opioid replacement therapy, or for someone who's not ready for treatment yet, making sure that they've got access to that naloxone kit".
Speaking about federal involvement, Payne explains the Liberal government has been helpful in making approvals for safe consumption sites easier, in addition to the distribution of naloxone. She also says that many other jurisdictions around Canada are looking to Alberta to use the methods in place here, and she believes that shows some of the hard work Alberta Health Services continues to do.
Payne also makes note that it will be hard to predict when the opioid overdose numbers will begin to go down, because of how complex it can be, and how many different factors can play into an addiction. In closing Payne notes,"If it were up to me it would be going down yesterday, but as long as Albertans are continuing to die of preventable overdoses, we are going to continue our work to make sure those services and supports are available to anyone who needs them".