Advocates are appealing for additional support from the provincial government in light of the latest data on drug overdose deaths in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Coroners Service released an updated report this week detailing verified and suspected drug poisoning deaths in the province this year.
While there were 161 confirmed drug poisoning deaths from January 1 to November 3, 2021, there were 202 suspected deaths, bringing Saskatchewan’s total for the year to 363.
When evidence suggests a person died from a drug overdose, but the inquiry is still ongoing, it is referred to as a suspected death.
In comparison, Saskatchewan tallied 314 confirmed overdose deaths and 16 suspected deaths in 2020 for a total of 330.
In addition, 81 of Saskatchewan’s confirmed deaths in 2021 were reported in Regina and 42 were in Saskatoon.
Regina led the way in 2020 with 139 confirmed deaths due to overdose while Saskatoon recorded 73.
The Saskatchewan government says the growing number of deaths is a concern, but officials note it’s a problem not unique to Saskatchewan.
“You see other provinces across the nation right now that are struggling with increased addictions issues and overdose issues,” said Everett Hindley, the provincial minister of mental health and addictions. “Some of that is brought in by the pandemic or a more toxic drug supply.”
Hindley said more work is being done to respond to the rising concern of overdose deaths.
The minister mentioned there is $2.6 million in new funding towards addictions in this year’s budget, including the procurement and establishment of three community wellness buses, improving access to harm reduction supplies, along with 150 addictions, treatment and detox spaces in the province over the next three years.
He also mentioned that additional money is being spent on supports like testing strips in Regina and Saskatoon, with plans to expand the program to other cities.
“There’s a lot of money going around, and new initiatives are popping up all the time. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll also be unveiling additional ones.”