SUDBURY—The Ontario government’s announcement last week to expand the provincial opioid response is good news according to local officials, a press release from the Sudbury and District Health Unit (SDHU) states. Sudbury and District Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe and Greater Sudbury Police Services Chief Paul Pedersen are co-chairs of Sudbury’s Community Drug Strategy, a multi-sector community initiative to prevent and respond to drug misuse.
“The expansion of naloxone availability to police and fire services and the province’s recognition of a public health emergency are important enablers to Sudbury’s Drug Strategy,” said Chief Pedersen. “The Greater Sudbury Police Service had already committed to taking this action to ensure our members were equipped with naloxone. The Greater Sudbury Police Service recognizes the importance of issuing naloxone nasal spray to our members who may handle or come in contact with hazardous opioid substances.”
“This provincial announcement brings further support to our local harm reduction efforts to reduce the impacts of drug use on individuals and communities,” said Dr. Sutcliffe. “Addiction is a complex mental health concern for individuals, and many families have been impacted by addiction and have experienced tragic losses our community.”
Local public health and police services are working closely with municipal and community partners to understand and respond to opioid issues. Local partner agencies have also had preliminary discussions about the need for an overdose prevention site.
In addition to expanding the availability of naloxone, Minister of Health Dr. Eric Hoskins formally requested that the federal government allow Ontario to approve and fund overdose prevention sites (also known as supervised injection sites). Under a new federal policy, provinces experiencing a public health emergency can request an exemption under federal law for temporary overdose prevention sites.
The SDHU recently expanded its public health mandate, which includes a greater focus on mental health and addictions, and providing harm reduction supplies and services, as well as distributing naloxone.
Public health units in Ontario are naloxone distribution leads for eligible community organizations to increase distribution to those most at risk of opioid overdose. Naloxone kits are currently available for free at participating pharmacies and local organizations, such as Réseau Access Network.
From April to November 2017, there were 52 visits to the emergency department in the Health Unit’s service area related to drug overdose.