The province announced this week that additional steps will be taken to provide life-saving naloxone to police and fire services across the province, as well as the expansion of access to temporary overdose prevention sites. The Chief Coroner in Ontario presented new data that shows an urgent need for continued action to address the crisis.
A new data system for opioid fatalities being used by coroners across the province provided information into a three-month window from May to July 2017. During this time, it was reported that there were 336 opioid related deaths across the province, averaging 3-4 overdose deaths daily and a 68% increase from the same three months the previous year. 67% of overdose deaths during this time contained fentanyl, and 61% of deaths were in a private residence.
Minister of Health and Long-Term care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, also announced that under a recently announced federal policy, provinces can now request exemptions under federal law for temporary overdose prevention sites. Minister Hoskins announced that he has formally requested that the federal government allow Ontario to approve and fund these sites. Overdose prevention sites, also known as safe injection site, provide health services to substance users and can assist in reducing the harms related to opioids such as the transmission of disease and overdose.
In addition, it was also announced that Naloxone, a medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, will be offered to 61 police services and 447 fire departments in Ontario.
Naloxone kits are currently available for free at participating pharmacies and numerous health organizations across the province for individuals. For more information on Naloxone, the opioid overdose crisis in Ontario, and ways in which to develop an opioid overdose response protocol, read CMHA Ontario resource Reducing Harms: Recognizing and Responding to Opioid Overdoses in Your Organization.