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Piikani Nation declares state of emergency

Piikani Nation chief and council last week declared a local state of emergency in response to an opioid crisis.

The decision was sparked in part by deaths of nation members in recent weeks.

“The situation affecting our nation is not unique to us,” Chief Troy Knowlton said. “Drugs, especially opioids and fentanyl, may prove to be the public policy challenge of the century, affecting every community from coast to coast.”

“However, in a tight-knit community like ours, the impacts of drugs, especially addiction and tragically death, particularly among our youth, reverberate pain throughout our entire nation.”

Knowlton in a published statement said chief and council intends “to end or significantly reduce” the availability of drugs on the Piikani Nation.

The state of emergency includes measures to prevent drug use, improve emergency treatment, and provide additional resources to agencies dealing with both drug abuse and its side-effects.

“It also includes working with local RCMP for diligent and augmented law enforcement measures to crack down on the source of the problem, namely gangs and drug traffickers,” Knowlton said. “Of course, any measures taken under the state of emergency will be exercised in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and will be carefully monitored to limit any impact on the rights of law-abiding Piikani citizens.”

The local state of emergency also focuses on health issues, prevention and treatment through measures including the following:

• Increased naloxone distribution.

• Allowing standing orders for naloxone.

• Mandating cross-agency sharing of data.

• Increasing date timeliness and surveillance.

• Addressing regulatory barriers.

• Strengthening access to treatment, including medically-assisted treatment.

• Increasing opioid prescribing restrictions.

The Piikani Nation also reached out to the Alberta Minister of Indigenous relations for additional supports, including:

• A mobile detox centre.

• Transitional housing.

• Two fleet vehicles.

• Security patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

• Additional crisis workers.

The Piikani Nation also asked its members to notify the RCMP at 403-965-2001 to provide information about drug trafficking in the community.

Addictions and counselling help is at 403-632-7279 and the suicide crisis help line is available by calling or texting 988.

“Again, this is a long-term and complicated issue,” Knowlton said. “But we believe the way to start mediating the problem is to start now. We have done that. My personal sympathies go out to the families of the youth who have been taken from us. They can be assured, however, that we will offer more than sympathy.”

“We are acting.”

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