Criticism mounted in the Saskatchewan Legislature on Monday as suspected overdoses in the province surpassed 100 for 2023.
In a report released on Feb. 28, the Saskatchewan Coroners Service revealed that 103 suspected overdoses were reported in the first two months of 2023.
The figure comes close to surpassing the annual total in 2016, which was recorded as 109.
The official opposition made a point of the grim statistics during proceedings on Monday.
“How many more people have to die before the minister delivers a mental health and addictions strategy that works for everyone?” NDP MLA Vicki Mowat asked during question period.
In response to the questions, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley claimed the province is making record investments in the area.
“The loss of any life to overdoses is a tragedy, and we’re seeing this right across our province and right across the country,” he said.
“Mr. Speaker, we are making record investments in this area but we know we need to do more when it comes to supports and programs and services to address this.”
OVERDOSES IN SASKATCHEWAN:
- 2016 - 109
- 2017 - 119
- 2018 - 172
- 2019 - 179
- 2020 - 323
- 2021 – 402 + 7 suspected
- 2022 – 245 + 159 suspected
- 2023 – 103 suspected so far
(Source: Saskatchewan Coroners Service)
Hindley went on to explain that the government ‘is close’ to announcing the first phase of the province’s plan to add additional capacity in treatment spaces, while also referencing ongoing efforts such as overdose outreach teams in Regina and Saskatoon.
“[This] will help provide more access for people to be able to access long term rehabilitation and treatment and recovery options right across this province,” he added.
Speaking to reporters after question period, Mowat said that the province’s current approach has left many with a lack of support.
“We know that folks who are in those crisis situations feel like they don’t have the resources they need to be able to heal, to be able to stay alive long enough to do that healing,” she said.
When asked what the opposition hopes to see in the upcoming provincial budget, Mowat was clear that a fully funded strategy with community outreach was vital.
“[We need] to make sure that it’s an evidence based strategy as well, that they are calling in the experts, that they’re calling in folks in community that are doing this work that can concretely say where a difference is going to be made,” she said.