09/30/2015 12:05 EDT | Updated 09/30/2016 05:12 EDT

Fentanyl Deaths In Calgary Rise, Police Focus On Public Education

There were 145 fentanyl-related deaths in Calgary last year.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Calgary police are warning of a public health crisis as the number of fentanyl-related deaths and overdoses in the city continues to rise.

They say two people have died and 14 others have been taken to hospital over the past two weeks as a result of using an illegal and potent street version of the pain-killing prescription drug.

They say that between January and June of this year, 45 people in Calgary have died from fentanyl use, with no sign of a decline in the rate.

There were 145 fentanyl-related deaths in the city last year.

Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta says stark warnings police have issued in the past don't seem to be working.

Authorities intend to focus their efforts on educating the public about the dangers of fentanyl use.

Schiavetta said police are actively trying to push down demand for the drug while tackling its supply.

"You could take one tablet today, the next tablet tomorrow will kill you. We just need to keep getting that message out. Through our schools, through the media. Parents need to be educated about the dangers of drugs out there," he said.

This past summer, Alberta Health Services expanded a program to combat fentanyl-related deaths. Kits containing naloxone, a drug that decreases the effects of fentanyl, were made more readily available.

AHS said about 140 kits were handed out from July to mid-September and four lives were saved as a result. (CHQR, CTV Calgary)

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