Prov­ince to of­fer nalox­one to po­lice, fire­fight­ers

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - The Cana­dian Press

TORONTO On­tario will of­fer nalox­one to po­lice and fire­fight­ers across the prov­ince and can now ap­prove safe in­jec­tion sites on its own, it an­nounced Thurs­day as new fig­ures showed a dra­matic spike in opi­oid-re­lated deaths.

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 Thurs­day that 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 died from opi­oids be­tween Jan­uary and April, Huyer said. Last year 865 peo­ple in On­tario died due to opi­oids.

“The data demon­strates the ur­gent need for con­tin­ued and height­ened ac­tion to ad­dress this grow­ing pub­lic health emergency,” said Health Min­is­ter Eric Hoskins.

“While we talk about this data we can­not for­get for even one sec­ond that each and ev­ery one of these num­bers is a per­son.”

Huyer also said On­tario saw a con­tin­ued in­crease in fen­tanyl be­ing found in cases of opi­oid 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?”

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

“We know that hav­ing nalox­one in the hands of first re­spon­ders who may be work­ing with at-risk pop­u­la­tions is a valu­able tool that saves lives,” said Com­mu­nity Safety Min­is­ter Marie-France Lalonde.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment granted On­tario an ex­emp­tion Thurs­day un­der fed­eral law to al­low it to ap­prove and fund tem­po­rary over­dose preven­tion 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.

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