Pubdate: Sat, 03 Feb 2018
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Natalie Paddon
Page: A3


453 people were revived 'from the brink of death' in 2017, Hamilton
city officials hear

More than one-quarter of naloxone kits distributed through Hamilton
Public Health last year were used to revive someone from an overdose.

Of the 1,700 opioid antidote kits handed out in 2017, 453 were
reportedly used to revive a person.

"Four-hundred and fifty-three people revived from the brink of death.
It's hard to imagine that's anything but a success," said Michael
Parkinson, who works with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council
and the Municipal Drug Strategy Coordinators Network of Ontario.

Public health tracks this number by asking people who return for an
additional naloxone kit how they used theirs, so it's likely the
actual number of people revived is higher than what is reported, said
the city's medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson.

The 2017 numbers are up from the 462 kits distributed in 2016,
resulting in 192 people revived from a dose of naloxone.

So far this year, public health has already handed out 156 kits, with
27 people reportedly revived by them.

"I'm not satisfied with any of those numbers," said Mayor Fred
Eisenberger, noting he would hope this kind of response wouldn't be

To know that the number of kits used to revive someone in 2017 was
only nine fewer than the total number handed out the year prior is a
"stark reminder to the significance of this problem," he added.

"I'm glad we got more out there because if we had the same amount this
year as we had last year, it's possible we would have had more deaths."

While it's not currently known how many people died of opioid
overdoses locally last year, there were 23 confirmed and six probable
deaths among Hamilton residents just from May through July 2017.

The year prior saw an all-time high of 52 deaths from opioid toxicity
- - a death rate 48 per cent higher than the provincial average.

Paul Johnson, who has been tapped to lead a new healthy and safe
communities division at City Hall, told the general issues committee
Thursday Hamilton's response to the opioid crisis dominated "a lot of
the thinking" last year.

He pointed to the mayor's opioid summit in January 2017, the
development of an opioid public education campaign and the launch of
an opioid information website, which tracks local numbers of opioid
overdoses, the distribution of naloxone kits and opioid-related deaths.

"We have to at some point step back and say, 'What's our overall
strategy?'" Johnson said, adding time needs to be spent not just
"fighting fires."

Coming up with a comprehensive city-wide drug and opioid strategy that
focuses on prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement was
identified in the presentation as one of the priorities for 2018.

One of Eisenberger's priorities in addressing the opioid crisis this
year is to follow through on the council-approved supervised injection

site for downtown. He said they have "narrowed down" identifying a
community agency to run such a facility.

Richardson said the priority is twofold - getting more naloxone kits
out, but more importantly, figuring out how to "stem the tide" of what
is happening.

Across the province, the goal is reducing the availability of illicit
and prescription opioids while taking a look at some of the root
causes that can lead people to use, she said.

"How can we back this train up and look at how to reduce the number of
people who are using them in the first place?"

Parkinson believes it's up to the province to support local
communities in wider distribution of naloxone kits and removing
barriers that might exist for some people.

The province covers the cost of kits that municipal public health
units distribute.

In Hamilton, public health has increased accessed to naloxone kits by
boosting the number of hours the van needle syringe program that hands
them out is on the road.

The van now operates seven days a week - up from six - which is a
result of funding approved by council at the request of the city's
public health department last year.

If someone phones the city wanting a naloxone kit, staff will go and
meet the person where they are, Richardson said.

"We want to get them out there."
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MAP posted-by: Matt