COVID-19 was not the only crisis faced by Albertans in 2020. With 1,328 drug-related deaths, most of which were linked to opioids, the province is poised for continued debate on the matter, with the Official Opposition NDP proposing an Emergency Action Plan to protects vulnerable demographics.

Lori Sigurdson, Alberta NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions, is advocating an Emergency Action Plan to protect Albertans from the increasingly deadly overdose crisis.

"When more than four Albertans are killed by overdose every single day, how can we not do everything in our power to prevent more deaths?" said Sigurdson, the NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions.

"Albertans are dying and the government must put aside its prejudice, look at the evidence, and take action to save lives."

Provincial data shows that the first three months of 2021 have been deadlier than the same period in every year on record.

The NDP is proposing several policies, including that Alberta’s government expand Supervised Consumption Services across the province and immediately stop closing current SCS sites.

In late May, the province announced that it would be closing the Supervised Consumption Site in downtown Calgary in the place of two existing partner organizations’ facilities situated in "more appropriate locations," said mental health and addictions spokesperson Justin Marshall.

The ARCHES Supervised Consumption Site in Lethbridge also closed in 2020 after an audit earlier in 2020 suggested public money had been mismanaged.

Dr. Bonnie Larson is a physician based in Calgary and an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Calgary, who adds the closure "[destabilizes] effective and money-saving harm reduction services only to please voters."

"My objections here are not for political or partisan gain, but because I’m a doctor who made a pledge and I am tired of seeing my patients suffer and die disproportionately and preventably," she said.

The NDP has also called on the province to start providing "safe, legal and regulated pharmaceutical alternatives" for Albertans who use highly toxic street drugs.

When asked for specific alternatives, Sigurdson’s spokesperson Caleb Sorenson was unable to clarify and deferred a response to his superiors.

No response was given at the time of publication.

In response, Marshall states that he understands the NDP wants to adopt the British Columbia approach of ‘flooding the streets’ with taxpayer-funded drugs. However, his government does not share this view.

"Contrary to what some would like to argue, drugs are not ‘safe.’ Period," he said. "We are working to establish a full continuum of care for people struggling with addiction, inclusive of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. Making dangerous and addictive drugs more available and free is contrary to the ultimate goal of getting Albertans suffering from addiction off drugs."

On May 21, three Edmontonians tragically passed in Kinistinâw Park, a public park in the city’s downtown core.

"This indicates a massive problem which requires immediate and bold action," said Naomi Johnson, whose father Clifford Mitchell was one of the three overdose victims.

Lorna Thomas founded Moms Stop the Harm, which is a network of families impacted by substance-related harm and death, said: "Families are losing their children, their fathers, their siblings due to a toxic drug supply. Many of these deaths are preventable."

"I don’t believe that people who use drugs must either stop using or die," she said.

The Official Opposition also called for the introduction of drug testing to help Albertans who use substances determine if their drugs are lethally toxic, as part of their policy proposal.