Whitehorse Daily Star

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CREATE MAP – Dr. Brendan Hanley says Ottawa is looking into opioid use and overuse in the territory.

‘Surveillance officer’ to probe opioid situation

An “opioid surveillance” officer

By Taylor Blewett on October 12, 2017

An “opioid surveillance” officer will start work in the Yukon next month to provide a clearer picture of how fentanyl and other opioid use is affecting the territory, according to the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health.

“I think it’s very important for us to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on,” Brendan Hanley told the Star Wednesday afternoon.

He was referring to the fentanyl-fuelled opioid crisis that has claimed the lives of at least seven Yukoners since April 2016.

The federal government has committed a public health officer to the Yukon and several other jurisdictions to help authorities create “a detailed map of what’s going on with opioid use and overuse in the territory,” according to Hanley.

The individual responsible for what Hanley said is called opioid surveillance will gather detailed information about opioids prescriptions in the territory, drug-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations, among other things.

“What’s the profile of people who overdose and therefore how can we help target our interventions better in terms of awareness raising?” Hanley posited. It’s this kind of question the opioid surveillance officer will help answer.

He or she will be working under the chief medical officer of health.

Hanley said he’s not willing to release the name of the individual who has been selected for the position. He or his deputy officer, Catherine Elliott, will remain the public face of the office, he said.

The Yukon has seen other public health officers doing this kind of surveillance work.

Ottawa loaned an epidemiologist to the Yukon government in April 2016 after the first fentanyl overdose death in the territory.

“That helped to get things set up,” Hanley said.

“As federal support has solidified, they’ve been able to offer us more robust resources.”

Seven fentanyl deaths in the Yukon might seem insignificant in comparison to hundreds of opioid fatalities in other provinces over the last 18 months, including B.C. alone.

However, the Yukon’s small population means statistics aren’t always the best measure of the crisis’s impacts.

“It’s as much of a concern in Yukon as is it anywhere else in the country,” Hanley said.

“We’ve had a chronic problem on opioid overuse for many years and substance use in general. And now we have the arrival of fentanyl to a somewhat susceptible population. A population at risk.”

Hanley said the territory is seeing about one confirmed fentanyl overdose a week, though sometimes that number is slightly higher.

Fentanyl overdoses are identified when a urine screen is ordered.

Comments (4)

Up 16 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Oct 17, 2017 at 12:22 pm

So when Jibril Hosh Jibril was recently caught here with a large bag of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking and his history of drug dealing was revealed, why was he granted bail to go and do it all over again? It appears to me that the federal & territorial governments, the medical community and the law are not in sync with addressing this issue. Its a joke when you examine what isn't being done.
http://www.yukon-news.com/news/accused-in-whitehorse-fentanyl-bust-granted-bail/

Up 3 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Oct 17, 2017 at 10:40 am

Interesting story out of the Washington Post on this issue- read it and form your own opinion.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/dea-drug-industry-congress/?utm_term=.3ce614e00539

Up 25 Down 4

Max Mack on Oct 15, 2017 at 12:55 am

"opioid surveillance" . . . aka "we will cook up the evidence we need to justify what we want to do". Creating a false crisis will form part of the mandate, to ensure no person would dare oppose whatever is in the works.

Hanley's assertion that "we’ve had a chronic problem on opioid overuse for many years" pretty much reveals which way this is going to go.

Up 29 Down 5

jc on Oct 13, 2017 at 9:34 pm

So, is this - another tax payer's expense supposed to stop or decrease opioid use in Yukon? Or is it just another expensive job creation from the Libs?

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