(Toronto, May 19, 2021) – The following is a statement from Camille Quenneville, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division, in reaction to the latest report on the opioid crisis in Ontario. The report, Changing Circumstances Surrounding Opioid-Related Deaths in Ontario during the COVID-19 Pandemic, by The Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario, Ontario Forensic Pathology Service and Public Health Ontario, was released today.
“The latest statistics are frightening across the board, but perhaps none is more stark than the 79 per cent increase in monthly opioid-related deaths in Ontario since the provincial state of emergency declaration in March 2020. In other words, a deadly addictions crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen has nearly doubled in severity over the past year, and there are no signs of it slowing down.
“Further, last year was the most tragic year on record for opioid-related deaths. There were 2,426 opioid-related deaths reported in 2020, up from 1,516 deaths in 2019, which is a 60 per cent increase.
“Fentanyl continues to drive these increases, with this drug reported to be accountable for 87 per cent of deaths. People who use unregulated street drugs may not realize they are consuming fentanyl.
“CMHA Ontario is reiterating our call for more harm reduction services, including safer opioid supply, in response to the deadly health impacts of opioid use and increasingly-toxic drug supply.
“Harm reduction is an evidence-based, client-centred approach that seeks to reduce the health and social harms associated with substance use. Harm reduction interventions include low-barrier access to naloxone, managed alcohol programs, safe consumption sites and outpatient substance-use counselling and supports.
“Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Many Ontario pharmacies offer free injectable and nasal spray naloxone kits without a prescription. CMHA Ontario has developed an opioid overdose toolkit to provide more information about opioids and naloxone access in Ontario. Reducing Harms: Recognizing and Responding to Opioid Overdoses in Your Organization is also useful for the average person who wants to learn more about how to use naloxone during an opioid-related emergency at home.
“Safer opioid supply is a harm-reduction approach that focuses on saving lives through the provision of safe doses of opioid medication, provided by a health care practitioner, as an alternative to the contaminated sources of unregulated drugs currently available on the street. CMHA branches in Ontario recently issued a statement voicing support for safer opioid supply approaches in the province.
“CMHA Ontario urges the provincial government to take swift action to change the course of this opioid crisis. We, our 28 branches across Ontario and our community partners are at the ready to support implementation of the services and resources required to limit these preventable deaths.”
About Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. We work to improve the lives of all Ontarians through leadership, collaboration and continual pursuit of excellence in community-based mental health and addictions services. Our vision is a society that embraces and invests in the mental health of all people. We are a trusted advisor to government, contributing to health systems development through policy formulation and recommendations that promote positive mental health. Our 28 local CMHA branches, together with community-based mental health and addictions service providers across the province, serve approximately 500,000 Ontarians each year.
For more information, contact:
Senior Strategic Communications Advisor
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
T: 416-977-5580, ext. 4175