Pubdate: Fri, 20 Oct 2017
Source: Observer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, Sarnia Observer
Author: Tyler Kula
Page: A1


Health unit getting up to $150,000 to reduce opioid-caused harm in

Police, health agencies, school boards and others, spurred by the
opioid crisis, have joined up to craft a strategy aimed at preventing
overdose deaths in Sarnia-Lambton.

A group of more than 20 agencies met this week to talk about ways to
intervene, said Lynn Laidler, executive director of the Rapids Family
Health Team, noting she was spurred to act after reading about a fatal
overdose in August likely caused by fentanyl-laced cocaine.

"I was sitting there and I got passionate, and when I get passionate I
get angry a little bit," she said. "So I decided we have to do more."

According to Lambton Public Health, there were five Sarnia-Lambton
deaths related to opioid poisoning in 2016, and 47

Opioids are powerful and addictive painkillers, including morphine,
oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl - increasingly linked with overdose
deaths across the country.

The Sarnia-Lambton group Wednesday, Laidler said, talked about
existing resources and gaps, making general plans to better educate
youngsters about the harms opioid abuse can cause, expand access to
naloxone - an injectable drug that can stave off an overdose before
help arrives - and start keeping real-time statistics about opioid
overdoses and emergency room visits.

"We need the community as a whole; we can't do this on our own,"
Laidler said.

Plans are to meet again in November, she said.

The group forming is timely, said Kevin Churchill, manager of health
promotion with Lambton Public Health.

The health unit recently received harm-reduction funding from the
provincial Health Ministry for similar strategies, he said. "It was
really good timing." The funding - up to $150,000 this year - is for
surveillance, naloxone kit distribution, and to set up an opioid
overdose response plan and drug strategy, he said. The meeting "was
really a jumping off point for that," he said.

As far as surveillance, plans are to work with police, emergency
responders and others to identify trends when drugs are causing
overdoses on the street, and get the word out fast, he said.

"Then hopefully you can intervene … before too many people are

Naloxone kits are currently available through public health and
certain pharmacies, he said - to anybody who takes a 15-minute
training session - and plans are to train family health teams and
community health centres to offer them as well.

"It can really reverse that overdose and save lives," Churchill said
about naloxone.

The funding is linked to a $222-million investment the Health Ministry
announced in late August, to address the opioid crisis over three years.

More details about Sarnia-Lambton's slice of $22 million in the first
year is planned at an announcement at Bluewater Health Friday, said
Andrew Tompsett, an official with the Erie St. Clair Local Health
Integration Network (LHIN). The organization controls health spending
in Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex.

It'll take a few months to establish a database and start real-time
monitoring of overdoses and emergency room visits, Churchill said.

"There's a sense of urgency," he said. "We're going to try to move as
quickly as we can."
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