The Pulse: Dec. 15, 2023

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 1°C: Sunny. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 1. Wind chill minus 7 in the morning. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for the end of Hanukkah. (details)
  • 4-7: The Edmonton Oilers (13-13-1) lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning (14-12-5) on Dec. 14. (details)
  • 8pm, Dec. 16: The Edmonton Oilers (13-13-1) play the Florida Panthers (17-9-2) at Rogers Place. (details)

A group of roughly 20 people sit on stairs looking at the camera.

FentaGone creates needle that tests overdose risk

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Edmonton startup FentaGone has developed a syringe that detects fentanyl and allows a user to test their drugs wherever they take them to avoid an overdose.

"What we've seen is a lot of changes in regards to harm reduction across the province and across the city, whether that comes to safe consumption sites opening, closing, moving — there's been a lot of unknowns in this sphere," FentaGone co-founder and CEO Simran Dhillon told Taproot. "What we see as a result of that, too, is overdose rates are increasing every single year, and it's getting exceptionally worse. And B.C., Alberta, and Ontario are the hardest hit."

FentaGone was a participant in Cohort 4 of the TELUS Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator, an Alberta-focused business accelerator focusing on entrepreneurial solutions to social and safety challenges in communities. The cohort closed and demonstrations took place on Dec. 6. The program introduces participants to community agencies and government partners like the Edmonton Police Service.

In all of 2022, emergency teams in Edmonton responded to 3,503 opioid-related events. By just the end of October 2023 (November and December data are not yet available) emergency teams have responded to 4,450 such events, according to Alberta's substance use surveillance data. For further context, Canada's Health InfoBase reports that fentanyl was involved in 81% of "all accidental apparent opioid toxicity deaths" from January to March of 2023.

While mass spectrometry machines at supervised consumption sites and test strips both test for fentanyl, each has challenges. The strips have reliability and context challenges, while the machines are relatively inaccessible due to the time and materials they require, as well as the user needing to go to the few locations where they are located.

FentaGone has worked to eliminate these significant barriers by creating a tool called FentaGone that is within the very syringe a user can employ to inject a drug. This allows a user to test wherever they intend to use a drug.

"Nothing changes in the ritual behaviour: there's no additional steps, no additional education, and we have embedded a unique functional detection technology into the plastic of the syringe and as it binds to fentanyl, it will change colour," Dhillon said. If a lethal fentanyl concentration is present, the substance within will become intensely red. If fentanyl is present but not in a lethal concentration, it will be a muted yellow, Dhillon said.

This provides more context to users than test strips, which indicate only whether fentanyl is present or not.

Test strips give you a response that isn't really assessing your risk of an overdose, Dhillon said. "It just assesses if fentanyl is present or not and fentanyl is very concentrated in the drug sphere at the moment. So, knowing if there's fentanyl present or not isn't as valuable as knowing how much fentanyl is potentially present."

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Headlines: Dec. 15, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

A photograph of Amarjeet Sohi, framed from his shoulders up, taken in 2021.

Sohi downplays three departures from Edmonton Global

By Tim Querengesser

The decision by three municipalities in less than a month to leave Edmonton Global is disappointing but not fatal, says Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

"While I acknowledge that Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, and Sturgeon County will no longer be a part of the important work of Edmonton Global as of December 2025, they are still active and important partners in the Edmonton region and make valuable contributions to our region's success," Sohi said in an emailed statement provided to Taproot.

He added that Edmonton Global has Edmonton's full support, and it "continues to generate returns on investment: for every dollar invested into Edmonton Global, more than $129 in investment has been attracted into the region, which amounts to over $2.6 billion worth of investment since they were established in 2017."

Sohi has highlighted regional collaboration as an economic win several times in recent years. In his state of the city speech in May, Sohi discussed it twice. "I have said before that when investment comes to our region they get 13 mayors working together," he said.

Nonetheless, in December 2022, Sohi and a majority of Edmonton's council voted to pull the city's funding for the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Commission, effectively killing the body. By that point, the regional partners that the commission would have included had worked for a decade on a plan to amalgamate eight transit systems across the region into one. St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron called the decision heartbreaking.

"What I voted against is the creation of a governance model that is very expensive," Sohi told Global News at the time.

Saving money was also on Strathcona County Mayor Rod Frank's mind when his council made the decision. "It's a comment on a tight budget," Frank told Taproot earlier this month. "Clearly capital costs have increased. So, we ended up going to every line of that budget, almost, justifying each cost."

Each of the three municipalities that have announced decisions to leave Edmonton Global did so during budget deliberations. Sturgeon County council approved a budget that will increase property taxes by 2.1%. In Strathcona County, the Nov. 30 budget set property tax increases for 2024 at 5.87%. Fort Saskatchewan's city council approved a budget this week but as of this writing has not publicly released details of any tax increases.

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A person in a tube ready to slide down a big hill of snow.

Things to do this holiday season

By Debbi Serafinchon

Taproot is taking a holiday break as of Dec. 20 and will return to your inbox on Jan. 4. There are many options to explore for recreation, winter activities, light displays, festive dining, or holiday entertainment in and around our city over the next few weeks. Let us be your guide to filling these coming weeks with memories.

Get moving


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