BY NANCY KELLY
Kings County Advertiser/Register
A review of several prescription drug-related deaths in the Valley, now underway by the Valley’s chief medical officer of health, will help local health and law enforcement officials “get a handle” on a problem that has been front and centre in the media in recent weeks.
Dr. Richard Gould, asked to look into the deaths by Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald April 20, says the process will look for patterns or links between the young men whose recent deaths have been tied to prescription drug abuse.
“It will not be an exhaustive inquiry, but we do plan to look deeper into these deaths, and look behind the information that is flying around out there,” reports Gould.
“It will not include a review of the treatment system,” cautions Gould, who plans to speak with members of Annapolis Valley Fighting Addictions (AVFA) and local police. Kentville Police Chief Mark Mander and members of AVFA are among those who contend a string of drug-related deaths has been largely ignored by provincial health and justice officials.
“We want to get a picture of what their concerns are.”
Consultations are now being held across the province looking at mental health and addiction services, which Gould explains are “separate from our review.” He adds the province also conducts regular reviews of its opiate and prescription drug monitoring program. He says that program has seen improvements, particularly in the sharing of information between physicians, pharmacists and police, since it was formed.
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“There is an established process by which doctors and law enforcement officials can get the information they need under the program. Whether or not there are breakdowns in the system remains to be seen.”
While he has no firm timeline to deliver his findings to the minister, Gould hopes to do so as soon as he can.
“The information may help us develop interim solutions for the short term,” and may also lead to longer term actions that will help reduce prescription drug-related deaths, which Gould says “are not a new phenonenom, but a sad fact.
“Whatever we can do to improve things would be great,” says Gould, who admits drafting and implementing programs and improving resources requires both time and due diligence.