The number of overdose deaths in Regina is trending downward so far in 2022, according to statistics released from the Regina Police Service.
In January and February of this year, police calculated 18 apparent overdose deaths. In the same time period last year, there were 28 apparent overdose deaths.
February saw eight overdose deaths compared to 15 last year.
The average age of the deceased so far in 2022 is 43.
Regina police Chief Evan Bray said it’s welcomed news after several years of high overdose numbers.
“We are obviously happy to see the fact that our overdose numbers are trending a little lower than where they were last year. We were spiking some pretty significant highs last year and that caused some real concern,” Bray said.
The Chief said it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what could be causing the decline, but said it’s likely multiple factors.
He said efforts from harm reduction organizations, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and police drug investigation units could all be causing the downward trend. There are initiatives underway to help determine more concrete data.
“How can we tangibly measure and say [harm reduction] efforts are resulting in a lower number of overdoses?” Bray said. “I know community based organizations that we work with, predominantly obviously those that are providing harm reduction efforts, are working on trying to find some measurement tools to show how that is making an impact.”
Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said it’ll take an “all hands on deck approach” to keep overdose death numbers down.
“We lost more people probably to overdoses than to COVID-19 here in the city,” Masters said. “Going into a more healed place is a pathway that has multiple stopping points, multiple approaches. Folks start down a pathway and often times regress back into that deep addiction place. Really, it’s about making sure the community has all those points of support along the way.”
Masters said overdose numbers will have to be monitored closely to determine if outreach and harm reduction sites are working.
Regina’s Newo-Yotina Friendship Centre is one of the community organizations working towards harm reduction through its safe consumption site.
Michael Parker, the executive director, said the centre has seen a significant increase in use over the past few months.
“We see 30-40 visits in the summer months. January we had just over 100, February we had 210 consumptions on site and March is looking to be kind of similar numbers as last month,” Parker said.
He said he hopes the increase in safe consumption use is part of the reduction in overdoses.
“Obviously it’s safer [here] for when people come and use, but there’s some education we can provide,” Parker said. “Things like go low and slow, make sure you’re using with friends. We’ve got the take home test kits we’ve been able to distribute and use on site.”
When people are using drugs from a new supplier, Parker said that’s a very good reason to use them at the site.
The site is currently open seven days per week but closes at 4:00 p.m. Parker said he would like it to stay open later, but that depends on funding.
“We don’t necessarily have a good long-term solution for funding,” he said.
The site is hoping to secure funding from the provincial and federal governments in the future.