Pubdate: Sat, 16 Sep 2017
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball
Page: A1


Report puts Brantford at top in province for emergency room visits due
to opioid poisoning,

A report putting Brantford at the top of the provincial list for
emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses is a "wake-up call,"
says Ruth Gratton.

"I think this report validates all of the hard work that is being done
in the community and will serve as justification for ramping up those
efforts," Gratton, manager of infectious disease at the Brant County
Health Unit, said Friday.

"I think it should also serve as a wake-up call to those people,
including parents, who might have been dismissive of the concerns and
the harm reduction strategies that we've been promoting in the community.

"We're very concerned about this especially when it comes to those,
aged 15 to 24, and that's why we've been sounding the alarm for the
past year or so."

A report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information puts
Brantford at the top of the list of Ontario cities for emergency room
visits due to opioid poisoning.

For every 100,000 people, the city's census metropolitan area, which
includes Brant County and a part of Six Nations, has 98.9 opioid
visits to the emergency room. The next highest area in Ontario is St.
Catharines- Niagara with 72.5 visits.

Local paramedics, police officers and firefighters, as well as those
in health-care, education and social services are well-aware of the
dangers of opioids, especially the illicit synthetic fentanyl. They
have been working together for the past year on strategies aimed at
keeping people alive.

The effort, initiated by Brantford Police Chief Geoff Nelson, resulted
in the creation of a round-table on fentanyl with community
representatives from Brantford and Brant County.

Two community forums on opioids were held and naloxone kits, used to
revive drug users from overdoses until they can get hospital
treatment, were made readily available in the community. Naloxone can
be picked up at several pharmacies in the community, as well as the
health unit at 194 Terrace Hill St. And St. Leonard's Community
Services is distributing nasal naloxone kits at its needle exchange
locations at 225 Fairview Dr. and 133 Elgin St.

Efforts are underway to develop a community-wide drug strategy, which
could include supervised places for those who use opioids to do so
safely, said Gratton.

"Our whole approach to the fentanyl crisis has been focused on harm
reduction, which is why we've worked to make naloxone available to
people," she said. "Safe consumption sites are an extension of the
harm-reduction strategy. "It's all about saving lives." While some are
critical of the provincial response to the opioid crisis, Gratton
praised the Health Ministry for acting quickly. Health Minister Eric
Hoskins last month said that more supervised drug injection sites and
"rapid access" clinics will open across Ontario as the province
earmarks another $222 million over three years to fight the growing
opioid crisis. And in June the province pledged $15 million to help
local health agencies hire staff and hand out naloxone kits,

Brantford Mayor Chris Friel said people in the community are working
hard to address the opioid crisis.

"Regardless of rankings, our primary concern is for the individuals
and families who are impacted by this crisis and what we can do to
help people in need," Friel said.

"If people think this is just a Brantford story, then they are missing
the story. This is a national, provincial and regional issue," he said.

"And, while communities across Canada grapple with the same question
about cause, what's most important is that resources are directed to
where they can have the most impact and that we continue to focus on
getting people healthy."

Brantford faces many of the same challenges that other mid-sized
communities outside the Greater Toronto Area deal with in terms of
resources. Most resources are dedicated to the GTA, said Friel.

Brantford is "woefully underfunded" when it comes to healthcare,
mental health and addictions, said the mayor.

Friel acknowledged a positive step taken by the province last month
when it announced that it will invest in a new residential withdrawal
management and addiction treatment program at St. Leonard's.

But he said that process to get that announcement was long and often

Brant MPP Dave Levac acknowledged the frustration involved in getting
plans finalized for the addiction treatment program. But the blame
can't be put on the provincial government, he said.

A number of factors involving other community agencies contributed to
delays, said Levac, who is also Speaker at Queen's Park.

Levac said that the government is taking steps to address the opioid
crisis throughout the province.

A Brantford police service spokesperson said people must recognize
that there are two sides to the opioid crisis -- supply and demand.
Most of the local efforts have been focused on the demand side to make
sure those who use drugs do so safely and know the risks, said Const.
Nat Laing.

"We would never condone illegal drug use," she said. "But what we have
said is that, if you are going to use drugs, don't do it alone and
make sure you have naloxone with you.

"We have a lot of concerns but one of the biggest is our young people
and how much they know about the risks."

Fentanyl, which is highly addictive, is being mixed or put into other
drugs, such as cocaine and even marijuana, often without the user's

Just over a week ago, Brantford police charged a 34-year-old Brantford
man with manslaughter after a 46-year-old man died of a suspected
fentanyl overdose on the Labour Day weekend. The accused is also
charged with trafficking powder fentanyl and cocaine.

It is the first time Brantford police have charged someone with
manslaughter in relation to trafficking of an illegal substance that
resulted in a death.

Data released Thursday by the Public Health Agency of Canada revealed
there were about 2,800 opioid-related deaths across Canada in 2016 -
more than the number of Canadians who died at the height of the HIV
epidemic in 1995.

Although figures haven't yet been finalized, more than 600 people died
of apparent opioid-related deaths across the country in the first
three months of 2017, although the final number is likely higher.

On average, eight people die every day. About three-quarters of these
are male.

In its report, the Canadian Institute for Health Information warned
the opioid crisis is having a significant impact on the health system
as a growing number of Canadians seek emergency hospital care for overdoses.

In 2016-17, 16 Canadians a day were admitted to hospital for opioid
toxicity, up from 13 per day two years earlier -- a rise of almost 20
per cent.

That one-year hospitalization rate translates into more than 5,800
Canadians needing treatment.

The last decade has seen hospital admissions for opioid poisonings
jump 53 per cent, with more than 40 per cent of that increase
occurring in the last three years, CIHI reported.

Canadians, aged 30 to 39, accounted for the highest proportion of
deaths related to the potent narcotics, at 28 per cent overall,
although the figures varied widely across the country, according to
the CIHI.

Fentanyl and fentanyl-like drugs are a major driver of overdose deaths
in the hardest-hit areas of the country. Deaths involving fentanyl
more than doubled in the first three months of 2017 compared to the
same period in 2016.
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