Local initiative aims to reduce drug use in Alberta

As “tranqs”, fentanyl and other drugs continue to end lives in the Lethbridge area, some residents are fighting back.

Alvin Mills is certainly no stranger to the battle with narcotics, but he says the fight has evolved into a problem beyond that of his worst nightmares.

“Anyone who is doing (“tranqs”), they’re actually playing Russian Roulette, taking chances on doing the drugs,” said Mills.

To bring visibility to this often shadow-lurking enemy, Mills hosted a community get-together at Galt Gardens on Wednesday.

“The purpose of the event is to shed more awareness on the opioid crisis that has hit us here in southern Alberta,” said Mills.

The event included live music and food for those who may have not been able to get a meal earlier in the day.

He says Indigenous people make up less than four per cent of the population around here, yet they are eight times more likely to overdose than any other demographic.

“The Blood Reserve is the largest reserve in Canada and we’ve been the hardest hit with this opioid crisis.”

While the Indigenous community has been hit hard with the danger brought on by street drugs, Richard Red Crow, a sponsor of Mills’ event and a Blood Tribe resident, says it is tremendously important to help everyone, no matter their background.

“For me, our people are you and I,” said Red Crow. “We all suffer, we all go through the same things. It’s affecting a lot of families, whether you’re native or other groups because it’s affecting everybody.”

He says this is particularly important because the drug crisis is not contained to just Lethbridge, the Blood Reserve or even Canada.

“This is a worldwide pandemic that we’re facing.”

Having once been entangled in the web of addiction, Red Crow says he made it out alive and now wants to help others do the same.

“It took me a long time to finally turn that page, but once I had… I’m just here to help people out,” said Red Crow.

He says it is also important the government focuses on building more treatment centres and supportive housing, otherwise the entire process is nearly irrelevant.

“So, people have a place to go after treatment, because right now we just throw them back out,”

According to Mills, unresolved trauma stemming from all manner of issues is a key contributor to individuals using drugs. As a result, even with a bed and a roof, he says nothing can be done without first solving the mental problem.

“Until we start addressing the trauma, the unresolved grief, until we start addressing those two main factors, then the healing can start,” said Mills.

He says it is the duty of residents to help their fellows because there is always a story behind an addiction and a soul behind a drug users face.

“We have to do what we can to help the ones struggling out there.”

Mills operates a healing camp outside of the city that he says is good for helping people “get away from the environment” they are in.

“We do have methadone, we do have suboxone as tools of recovery.”

Meanwhile, Red Crow says the fight against addiction is not an easy one, but it is one worth pursing all the same.

“I keep saying that we’re never going to give up – because we can’t.”

This year marks the third anniversary for the healing camps run by Mills. As for Red Crow, he hopes to host an event at the shelter in Lethbridge soon so he can better reach those in need.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald