Pubdate: Sat, 09 Dec 2017
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Osprey Media


Community Drug Strategy steps up efforts to combat opioid

Some 52 people were admitted to hospitals in the Sudbury area in the
past six months due to drug overdose, official say.

Members of Sudbury's Community Drug Strategy also said Friday they
have had preliminary discussions about the need for an overdose
prevention site in the city.

They made the comments in response to the Ontario government's
decision Thursday to expand the provincial opioid response, which they
called good news.

"The expansion of naloxone availability to police and fire services
and the province's recognition of a public health emergency are
important enablers to Sudbury's Drug Strategy," Chief Paul Pedersen
said in a release. "The Greater Sudbury Police Service had already
committed to taking this action to ensure our members were equipped
with naloxone.

"The Greater Sudbury Police Service recognizes the importance of
issuing naloxone nasal spray to our members who may handle or come in
contact with hazardous opioid substances."

Pedersen and Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the Sudbury & District Medical
Officer of Health, are co-chairs of Sudbury's Community Drug Strategy,
a multi-sector community initiative to prevent and respond to drug

"This provincial announcement brings further support to our local harm
reduction efforts to reduce the impacts of drug use on individuals and
communities," Sutcliffe said. "Addiction is a complex mental health
concern for individuals, and many families have been impacted by
addiction and have experienced tragic losses our community."

Public health and police services in Sudbury are working closely with
municipal and community partners to understand and respond to opioid
issues. Local partner agencies have also had preliminary discussions
about the need for an overdose prevention site.

In addition to expanding the availability of naloxone, Health Minister
Dr. Eric Hoskins asked the federal government allow Ontario to approve
and fund overdose prevention sites (also known as supervised injection

Under a new federal policy, provinces experiencing a public health
emergency can request an exemption under federal law for temporary
overdose prevention sites. And on Thursday, the federal government
granted Ontario an exemption under federal law to allow it to approve
and fund such sites.

"These overdose prevention sites are one step in what has been and
will continue to be a concerted and urgent response to this crisis,"
federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in a statement.

Ottawa announced last month that provinces experiencing public health
emergencies could request such a measure. Hoskins said the temporary
sites that have popped up have saved a lot of lives and are deserving
of the government's support.

"These life-saving necessary, health services - overdose prevention
sites - support some of the most vulnerable and marginalized
individuals in our province and they do so in a way that is
stigma-free, equitable and easily accessible," Hoskins said.

New figures released this week showed a dramatic spike in
opioid-related deaths in Ontario.

There were 336 opioid-related deaths in the province from May to July
- - an increase of 68 per cent from the same time period last year,
Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer said.

"It's incredibly significant and an incredibly large number," he said.
"This is a phenomenally big issue that's occurring in Ontario and
across Canada."

As well, the province said there were 2,449 emergency department
visits from July to September related to opioid overdoses - an
increase of 115 per cent increase from a year earlier.

The coroner's office changed how it collects that data in May,
allowing it to access the numbers more quickly, so it is still working
on determining how many people deaths. During those three months,
fentanyl was detected in 67 per cent of the cases, compared with 41
per cent in all of 2016 and 19 per cent in 2015.

Of the fentanyl-related death, 91 per cent were accidental and 55 per
cent had cocaine detected, too, Huyer said.

"It's tough to answer why that is," he said. "Is that people mixing,
or is that because what they purchased or what they were given was in
fact contaminated?"

In response to the overdose crisis, the Sudbury and District Health
Unit recently expanded its public health mandate, which includes a
greater focus on mental health and addictions, and providing harm
reduction supplies and services, as well as distributing naloxone.

Public health units in Ontario are naloxone distribution leads for
eligible community organizations to increase distribution to those
most at risk of opioid overdose. Naloxone kits are available for free
at participating pharmacies 
and Sudbury-area organizations, such as Reseau Access Network.

Naloxone, the overdose-reversing medication, will be offered to all 61
police services across the province and all 447 municipal fire
departments, the provincial government announced.

Ontario has committed $280 million over three years to fight the
opioid crisis, including distributing naloxone through emergency
departments, pharmacies and correctional facilities, expanding access
to addictions programs and improving data collection and monitoring.
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