The Blood Tribe (Kainai) First Nation southwest of Lethbridge has been holding rallies and sounding alarms about a fake street drug sold as OxyContin that contains fentanyl.
Now the illegal drug infiltrating the Blood Tribe Reserve has prompted community leaders to call a state of emergency.
Council was prompted to take action March 3rd, following continuous cries from the community, said Lance Tailfeathers, head of the Blood Tribe’s Health Advisory Committee.
At least 10 deaths on the First Nation have been linked to the street drug Oxy 80, or fake Oxycodone.
It’s believed organized crime groups are pushing Oxy 80 in the area.
The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT), an umbrella policing agency that targets serious and organized crime, has seized more than 14,000 fentanyl pills from across Alberta since April 2014.
The most recent seizure was in Lethbridge, where members of the ALERT team removed 300 fentanyl pills, other drugs and firearms from a home.
In late January, ALERT arrested a number of people, including one member of the Hells Angels — in connection to a major drug investigation.
ALERT said officers executed four search warrants at the same time, with the help of Edmonton Police Service and RCMP members — on three homes in Edmonton, the fourth was located in St. Albert.
Inside the homes, officers seized a variety of items, including a Hells Angels MC vest that contained illegal drugs, two rifles, and a loaded handgun along with ammunition and other gun parts, four body armour vests, 350 grams of cocaine, oxycodone pills and drug trafficking paraphernalia, two fake driver’s licenses, and $23,000 cash, and a vehicle.
Investigators said the focus of the investigation is a member of Hells Angels
A separate investigation by RCMP and Saskatoon police led to a series of raids in Saskatchewan and Alberta earlier in January, that yielded more than $8 million worth of drugs. The seizures included more than 3,000 fentanyl pills with the same chemical composition as narcotics linked to three overdose deaths in Saskatoon.
Thirteen of the 14 people charged in the bust are members of the Hells Angels or the Fallen Saints, another motorcycle gang, police say.
The president of a biker gang called the Fallen Saints was arrested, as were two full-patch members of the Hells Angels: one in Saskatoon and one in Alberta.
ALERT investigators believe the oxycodone pills are made in clandestine labs, but they don’t know where.
Meanwhile the battle is far from over on the Blood Reserve.
The Blood Tribe Police Services (BTPS) has only two officers dedicated to concentrate their time exclusively to drug-related investigations of this type.
The officers have been assigned to the newly-formed Crime Reduction Unit (CRU), and have been chosen based on their related experience and training in drug-trafficking investigations.
A growing number of tribal members are showing their frustration and concern regarding the substance abuse and selling of illegal and prescription drugs on the Blood reserve.
Community members have held rallies to raise awareness of the dangers of Oxy 80 and also called on drug dealers to leave.
“There’s a lot of positives coming out of it,” said Travis Plaited Hair, to the Lethbridge Herald. He added, many are coming forward looking for help, while those who once sold Oxy 80 out in the open, are retreating into the shadows. “Our own people who were selling this, they’re not as visible any more. It’s a small community – we know everybody so it took something like this (the rallies) to tell them we’re not going to take this BS.”
The Blood Tribe has held information sessions to educate their community and also posted two videos on its website, http://www.bloodtribe.org, to help residents learn more about opioid-overdose prevention.
In a media release the BTPS acknowledges the community concern and the efforts of Chief and Council to take positive action to address those concerns.
The BTPS encourages the general public to submit tips to their anonymous tip email, Oxy@bloodtribepolice.com.
Police say fentanyl is most often sold as counterfeit OxyContin, green pills labelled “CDN” on one side and “80” on the other.
“We’re still seeing overdoses and we’re still seeing deaths from it,” said Pamela Little Bear, a Blood Tribe Member who has been educating other residents of the reserve about the dangers of the drug.
According to a news release, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, physician for the tribe, has recommend the medication Naloxone to counter the effects of opioids in overdose situations.
The First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) has provided 47 Naloxone kits and the Blood Tribe will purchase more kits if needed. Community meetings were held in Levern, Moses Lake, and Stand Off to explain to residents what Naloxone is and provide training on how to administer the medication.
“There’s a five-minute window to administer it, but you still have to get the person medical attention within about an hour,” said Lance Tailfeathers.
The Blood Tribe plans to hand out the Naloxone kits strategically to families and patients in the community and eventually to schools.
Officials for the Blood Tribe met with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency to begin assessment of the local state-of-emergency request. The tribe said it will also actively seek federal health funding in providing additional resources.