SHA has no 'systematic surveillance system' for reporting overdose deaths
A naloxone anti-overdose kit is shown in Vancouver, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says it does not have a “systematic surveillance system” for reporting deaths by overdose.
Instead, public reporting of deaths by disease or accident is done through the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and other avenues.
“Currently, drug overdose data is from several sources, principally the official verified cause of death comes from the coroner’s report,” spokesperson Lisa Thomson said.
For the last year, Prairie Harm Reduction executive director Jason Mecredi has been calling for SHA to release real-time drug overdose information and treat overdoses more seriously with real-time information and public health announcements.
“In Saskatchewan right now what we have is a system set up where emergency responders, first responders and CBOs are really the ones trying to get word out about the public health issue and as a result it really seems like it’s a justice issue. It’s not, it’s a public health issue,” Mecredi told CTV News last week.
The SHA says overdose surveillance can be complex with routine, ongoing and systematic checks and balances built in for validation of information which can take time.
SHA says it has taken proactive measures to help people struggling with drug addictions including offering Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) programming in urban and rural communities.
“Despite the need to adapt some services and how they are provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we within MHAS have remained committed to serving our clients and ensuring their needs are met,” added Thomson.
The Calder Centre and Pine Lodge, Opioid Agonist Therapy and the Take Home Naloxone Kits harm reduction services that were previously closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have also now reopened and are accepting referrals.
SHA also noted its detox programs that are open in Saskatoon, Regina, La Ronge, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Meadow Lake, La Loche and Ile-a-la-Crosse and have since been operating with reduced capacity.
Saskatoon paramedics at Medavie Health Services recently responded to a record 100 overdoses between July 27 and Aug. 3.
Still, Mecredi says SHA needs to take a lead on overdoses similar in how SHA is treating the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not acceptable when we are seeing this issue growing week over week,” said Mecredi.