35 opi­oid deaths in re­gion

The Glengarry News - - Front Page -

“We need to be pre­pared”

This re­gion is not im­mune to the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of opi­oid abuse, stresses the East­ern On­tario Health Unit.

“There is a per­cep­tion among some peo­ple that there has never been an opi­oid-re­lated death in Corn­wall, how­ever, this is not ac­cu­rate at all,” states Dr. Paul Roume­li­o­tis, Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer of Health. “In fact, in the Corn­wall area, our ER visit rates re­lated to opi­oids are higher than the pro­vin­cial av­er­age and are among the high­est within the Cham­plain LHIN (Lo­cal Health In­te­gra­tion Net­work) area.”

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal data, there have been at least 35 opi­oid-re­lated deaths in Stor­mont-Dun­das-Glen­garry, Prescott-Rus­sell and Corn­wall be­tween 2010 and 2015.

In the re­cent past, lo­cal opi­oid over­doses were largely re­lated to OxyCon­tin mis­use, but th­ese have been pro­gres­sively re­placed by cases of fen­tanyl mis­use.

Fen­tanyl is a pow­er­ful opi­oid that can be lethal if mis­used. Syn­thetic, or boot­leg, fen­tanyl can be deadly even in small amounts, and has been re­spon­si­ble for a large num­ber of deaths across Canada re­cently.

While there has not been a surge in lo­cal fen­tanyl deaths to date, fen­tanyl and syn­thetic fen­tanyl are known to be present in the area. Deaths caused by those drugs have oc­curred in Toronto and Ot­tawa.

“We fear that it is only a mat­ter of time and thus we need to be pre­pared,” cau­tions Dr. Roume­li­o­tis.

“Ob­vi­ously the ideal ap­proach is to avoid tak­ing any street drug in the first place. How­ever, we also need to en­sure that for those who do end up in an opi­oid-re­lated med­i­cal emer­gency (some­times by un­know­ingly tak­ing fen­tanyl-laced drugs), any first re­spon­der called to the scene have the nec­es­sary po­ten­tially life-sav­ing tools (nalox­one) to help the vic­tims im­me­di­ately on site,” he adds.

The EOHU tracks opi­oid data such as ER vis­its, deaths, as well as data from all first re­spon­ders in­clud­ing lo­cal po­lice, fire ser­vices and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices.

It has also es­tab­lished a com­mu­nity task force that has wide­spread mem­ber­ship in­clud­ing hos­pi­tals, school boards, com­mu­nity health cen­tres, ad­dic­tion ser­vices, first re­spon­ders and the coroner. One of the ma­jor roles of this group is to track all opi­oid-re­lated in­ci­dents in­clud­ing the need for nalox­one ad­min­is­tra­tion, hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, ER vis­its, etc.

The EOHU re­cently held a se­ries of com­mu­nity fo­rums on opi­oid use and over­dose pre­ven­tion, aimed at par­ents and stu­dents. Th­ese pre­sen­ta­tions, which in­clude ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion and lo­cal data, are avail­able to the pub­lic in the “Fen­tanyl” sec­tion of the site at www.EOHU.ca.

Ad­di­tion­ally, as part of its harm re­duc­tion strat­egy, the agency is pro­vid­ing nalox­one train­ing to lo­cal fire ser­vices and other first re­spon­ders and part­ners. It is also dis­tribut­ing free nalox­one kits for opi­oid users and their friends and fam­ily mem­bers. For more in­for­ma­tion, call the EOHU at 613-933-1375 or 1-800-267-7120.

The health unit de­cided to re­lease a state­ment on the is­sue in light of re­cent dis­cus­sion in the press and on so­cial me­dia about the dis­tri­bu­tion of nalox­one kits and the preva­lence of opi­oid use and over­dose in the re­gion.

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