Calgary, AB,

July 2018 Sets Record Number of Opioid Overdose Calls

The Calgary Fire Department recently logged the greatest number of monthly opioid overdose calls in Calgary to date with 144 calls in July 2018.

This is up nearly 20 per cent from July 2017 (121 to 144 calls), and over 450 per cent from July 2016 (25 to 144 calls).

“It’s a concerning trend for our community,” said Fire Chief Steve Dongworth, noting that other months in 2018 set previous records: 139 overdose calls in March 2018 and 134 in January 2018.

“We may not be at peak yet, based on what we’re seeing on the front lines,” said Dongworth. “We really do hope to see a plateau and decline in these numbers, knowing that significant efforts are being made to address the crisis.”

“Every one of those calls represents a significant impact in the lives of Calgarians, and we know that these calls are dispersed throughout the city – every community has been affected.”

Until April 2015, opioid overdose calls for Calgary Fire had never exceeded 10 per month. Now, on average, one patient a day is administered naloxone by Calgary Fire crews during 2018.

The Calgary Fire Department only responds to life-threatening medical calls, dispatched from 9-1-1 and responds in partnership with Alberta Health Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

In 2017, firefighters responded to 62,763 calls where citizens needed help, a 10 per cent increase over the previous year. Life-threatening medical calls comprised 45 per cent of all Calgary Fire calls in 2017, a total of 28,397 critical medical interventions: of these, firefighters attended to over 1,100 overdose patients, and administered naloxone 318 times.

The Calgary Fire Department first began administering naloxone, the temporary opioid antidote, in December 2016, and its opioid/naloxone training program has been since been shared with emergency services and agencies across Canada.

For additional information, the Calgary Fire Incident Map shows the types and number of incidents CFD attends in each area of the city and the Calgary Fire Department 2017 Annual Report provides an overview of Calgary’s fire service and community-based trends.