Prince Albert ambulance service welcomes new provincial drug alert system

Photo courtesy of the Parkland Ambulance website.

The provincial government launched a new Provincial Drug Alert System on Thursday, and that’s a good step towards keeping vulnerable people safe, according to Parkland Ambulance.

The government says the new Provincial Drug Alert System will help local organizations monitor drug use will help the Ministry of Health improve communications with local organizations. It allows organizations to quickly share information when there are multiple overdoses, suspected toxic drugs, or other drug issues causing significant harm in a community.

Parkland Ambulance Director of Logistics and Public Affairs Lyle Karasiuk said the concept was great. He has already become a subscriber.

“I think that sharing that information out into the public is a great step,” Karasiuk said. “If the Government of Saskatchewan is willing to take this step and let the public know in an effort for us to alert the public of potential hazards, I think it’s a great idea.”

With the new system, subscribers can receive updates and warnings via text, email, and through the Alertable app, in addition to alerts that are currently posted by partner organizations at locations where services are provided. Anyone can sign up to receive a drug alert via text, email or through a downloadable app.

Karasiuk said paramedics often get information this information other internal and agency source, but the alert system makes that information easily accessible to the general public. He said that’s going to help people who have family members who are at risk.

“I think it’s a good thing so I encourage people to sign up,” Karasiuk said. “You can get the app on your phone, you can get it delivered to you electronically as an e-mail, please, I encourage the public to go online and certainly subscribe to it. The more people who get the information, I think the better our community is going to be.”

Karasiuk pointed to the recent Coroner’s Report showing another increase in overdose related deaths in the province. He also said drug overdoses are a problem with all age groups.

“Provincially, we’re seeing young people in ages of 10 and 12. We’re seeing people of 30 and 40, and we’re seeing people that are 50 and 60,” Karasiuk said.

He said that drug overdoses should not be placed into one category to stigmatize a certain group.

“We need to just start to think of this in very broad strokes,” he said. “When I talk that way people often say, ‘oh no it’s not going to happen to my mom or my dad.’ You know what? Mistakes happen. Situations change. People become depressed.

“It’s everybody who needs to be aware, so everybody get on board,” he added. “Find this out so that we can say, ‘hey, suddenly this is happening in our community.’”

Karasiuk said he’s already started experimenting with the app to see what kind of service it offers. He said you can select Prince Albert and other local areas, like Candle Lake, and is looking forward to seeing more information.

He said that the data is important and should be out there.

“Let’s get this out there to folks and start to use it,” he said. “Start to get the data start to be more informed and then start to find resources in your community.

“Let’s start to knock some barriers down and let’s start to make a difference in our community,” he added.

The Herald reached out to Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne for his reaction on the new system. Dionne said he wanted to look into it further before weighing in.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Tim McLeod announced the new alert system at a press conference on Thursday. McLeod said the aim is to increase awareness of the dangers of illicit drugs and the presence of other toxic substances that further increase the risk of overdose and death.

“An important part of our message to people who have yet to walk the path to recovery is that there is hope for recovery, and there is help available through treatment,” he added.

Drug alerts will be issued by the Ministry of Health based on information provided from partner organizations such as the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, Regina and Saskatoon Fire Services, and drug checking sites in Saskatoon and Regina.

Alerts are issued when partners report to the Ministry of Health the following situations more than expected number of individuals seen by paramedic, or in hospital, with an overdose over a short period of time, multiple severe outcomes (ICU admissions, deaths) over a short period of time, multiple overdoses in persons who use or live in the same area or location or who report use of a common substance, overdoses that are difficult to reverse with naloxone; and concerning substances in circulation that have the potential to cause harm or death.

Signup information is available at or text JOIN to 1-833-35-B-SAFE (352-7233).

The new Drug Alert System is an initiative under the Saskatchewan Drug Task Force (SDTF), a multi-agency collaboration that includes representatives of the Regina and Saskatoon Police Services, the RCMP, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), the Ministries of Health, Social Services, and Corrections, Policing, and Public Safety, and Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand.