Pill seized on Esgenoôpetitj First Nation contains fentanyl, RCMP say

Pill seized on Esgenoôpetitj First Nation contains fentanyl, RCMP say

A pill seized from Esgenoôpetitj First Nation, where five people have recently been hospitalized with drug overdoses, contained fentanyl, according to a Health Canada analysis.

Health Canada describes fentanyl as a prescription painkiller about 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Police announced the fentanyl finding on Wednesday in the First Nation community southwest of Neguac.

An initial statement indicated several pills were tested, but RCMP later issued a correction that only one pill was seized  for analysis.

- Death of Esgenoôpetitj woman prompts chief to seek outside support 

Chief Alvery Paul said council is meeting on Thursday and he's considering a resolution similar to what other nearby First Nations have passed, banishing drug traffickers from the community and barring band privileges, such as housing, to them.

"I'm looking at the lead of Elsipogtog and Tobique — something to look at with the council when we sit down and discuss this, and furthermore have a lawyer and sit down and see what we can do from there," he said.

Paul also led a drug education session Tuesday at the Esgenoôpetitj school, with students in Grades 5-8.

"Students were shown what's in the drugs and what it can do to people," he said.

"It's a threat everywhere you go. Off reserve, on reserve, there's always drugs going around."

Fentanyl has been involved in at least 18 fatal drug overdoses since 2011 in New Brunswick, not including the death in Esgenoôpetitj, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Public Safety.

People in the community are calling the situation a crisis.

Health Canada has activated a local First Nations mental wellness crisis team to offer additional mental health support, including case management and counselling services, and is working collaboratively with the chief and community to assess ongoing needs, said spokesperson Maryse Durette.

"We currently have a First Nation and Inuit health branch‎ team in a community meeting with the chief, his health staff and the local provincial district health authority (Horizon Health). They are assessing current needs and collaboratively planning supports for the weeks ahead," she said.

Health Canada is "committed to supporting the community as long as necessary," she added.

Police are continuing to investigate the death of a 35-year-old woman on April 11 on Esgenoôpetitj First Nation and are awaiting toxicology results in that case.

There was one other suspected fentanyl-related overdose, for a total of six since April 10, but that person did not go to hospital, police said.

In one of the cases, officers administered naloxone spray to a man, and it appeared to reverse the effects of the drug, RCMP say.

The pill seized by police after the fatal overdose on the reserve is described as blue with "Percocet 5" written on it. The pill is about one centimetre in diameter.