Nearly 50 fewer people died from apparent overdoses in Regina last year, compared to 2021, data shows.
The Regina Police Service released figures for crime, calls for service and overdoses through the agenda for Tuesday's board of police commissioners meeting.
There were 118 apparent overdose deaths last year, a decrease from the 164 deaths in 2021, data shows.
"While we are seeing a reduction over 2021, we're far from calling it a success," said RPS Chief Evan Bray.
The opioid crisis has been ongoing for years, but significantly more people have died from drug overdoses since 2020, coinciding with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative social consequences that came with it.
Multiple factors could have contributed to fewer people dying from overdoses last year, Bray said. He hopes the trend continues, but he recognizes overdose deaths are still a significant problem in the community.
Apparent overdose deaths down in 2022
About three in five people who died from overdoses last year were men. The average age of people who died was 39 years old.
The fewer deaths in Regina contradict the trend for the rest of Saskatchewan.
Figures released by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service earlier this month suggested 421 people died — or were suspected of dying — from overdoses, an increase of 20 from the 401 deaths in 2021.
The RPS will continue working to stop the local drug trade, Bray said, but ultimately helping people with addictions requires proper health services.
"The justice system isn't going to fix this problem," he said.
Board gets 1st civilian chair
Jada Yee is now the first civilian to be chair of the board of police commissioners, according to Regina Mayor Sandra Masters.
Yee, who is Chinese and Indigenous, has served as a commissioner for several years.
He hopes to continue advocating for members of marginalized communities in Regina, such as newcomers and Indigenous people, and to continue building trust among those citizens.
"I want to hear from those members of the community to improve dialogue, but to also make sure they understand that their voices are heard and there are advocates for them on the committee," Yee said.
Yee has pushed for civilian oversight since joining the board, he said.
Having a civilian lead the board — the governing body for the RPS — is important, he said, because they are removed from politics and can focus solely on the needs of Reginans.