Ontario is providing life-saving naloxone to police and fire services across the province and seeking an expanded ability from the federal government to address overdoses, as new data shows that opioid-related deaths continue to increase.
"As a nurse, I have seen first-hand how addiction can affect anyone -- and everyone -- in a community. It’s critical that police officers and firefighters have Naloxone kits at the ready so they can administer the lifesaving antidote if and when they need it,” said Kathryn McGarry, MPP Cambridge.
“The growing Opioid crisis is complex, deadly and affecting thousands of families across North America. Ontario continues to respond with evidence-based community and health programs to address the complicated societal problems that fuel addiction.”
New data shows the urgent need for continued action. There were 336 opioid-related deaths in Ontario from May to July 2017, compared with 201 during the same time period in 2016, representing a 68 per cent increase. From July to September 2017, there were 2,449 emergency department visits related to opioid overdoses, compared with 1,896 in the three months prior, representing a 29 per cent increase.
Naloxone can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, and will be offered to all 61 police services across the province, including municipal and First Nation police services as well as the Ontario Provincial Police. The kits will also be made available to all 447 municipal full-time, composite, and volunteer fire departments, all northern fire departments, as well as all First Nations fire services to prevent overdoses, and could also be used to help front-line police and firefighters in case of exposure. Naloxone kits are currently available for free at participating pharmacies and from eligible community and health organizations.
"Our police officers have been on the front-line from the start in dealing with the opioid crisis and worked closely with our government, health and first responder partners. By making naloxone kits available to our officers, police personnel will be better equipped to save lives and protect themselves, said Chief Bryan Larkin, Waterloo Regional Police service and President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
In addition, the federal government has recently announced changes that would expand the ability of provinces to respond to the escalating opioid crisis. Under the new federal policy, provinces experiencing a public health emergency can request an exemption under federal law for temporary overdose prevention sites.
In response to this federal change in policy, Minister Hoskins wrote a letter to the Federal Health Minister today recognizing the public health emergency in Ontario due to the opioid crisis, and formally requested that the federal government allow Ontario to approve and fund overdose prevention sites.
These overdose prevention sites would provide necessary health services that are accessible and free of stigma to help reduce the growing number of overdose deaths affecting some of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in Ontario. Establishing overdose prevention sites with a federal exemption would also protect front-line workers at these sites from criminal prosecution.
"Every life lost to this opioid crisis is an avoidable tragedy. Our government is committed to using every tool available to save lives and help communities grappling with this crisis," said Dr. Eric Hoskins
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
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