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Drug-related deaths prompt state of emergency for Piikani Nation

A state of emergency has been issued for the Piikani Nation following the deaths of four band members in the past week. A state of emergency has been issued for the Piikani Nation following the deaths of four band members in the past week.
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LETHBRIDGE -

A state of emergency has been issued for the Piikani Nation following the deaths of four band members in the past week.

Chief Troy Knowlton, along with council, made the declaration Tuesday, confirming to CTV News the latest toll in Alberta's ongoing drug crisis.

In a statement, Knowlton explained the declaration was made after council's reading of the federal Emergencies Act, which includes measures to reduce the availability of drugs and provide more resources to prevent even more deaths.

"Drugs, especially opioids and fentanyl, may prove to be the public policy challenge of the century, affecting every community from coast to coast," Knowlton said.

"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 says the nation is taking several measures to prevent drug use, improve emergency treatment and provide additional resources to agencies dealing with both drug abuse and its side effects.

He says council will work with the RCMP "for diligent and augmented law enforcement measures to crack down on the source of the problem, namely gangs and drug traffickers."

According to the RCMP, 1,262 Albertans died from opioids last year -- up 255 from the year before that.

Mounties say drug dealers are tampering with the drugs more often, meaning naloxone doesn't always work.

The Piikani Nation is also making supports and services available for those who have lost a family member or friend to overdose.

"Again, this is a long-term and complicated issue, but we believe the way to start mediating the problem is to start now. We have done that," Knowlton said.

"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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