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Overdose numbers still on the rise: Health Unit

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (Health Unit) has released statistics regarding overdoses in the area from the past couple of years.

The Health Unit states that there was an increase in both overdose-related visits to the emergency room and overdose-related deaths from 2018 to 2019.

In 2018, there were 99 emergency room visits with 14 deaths in relation to opioids.

One year later, there were 138 opioid-related emergency room visits with 18 deaths across the same geographical area.

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In response to the increase in numbers of overdoses, the Health Unit launched an online overdose reporting system in May of 2019.

In the calendar year of data the system obtained from May of 2019 to May of 2020, there were 268 overdoses in the area. Of those 268, over two-thirds of the reported overdoses required 911 to be called.

The increase in numbers in the North Bay area is on-par with the rest of Ontario. In 2019, Ontario surpassed British Columbia for the most overdose-related deaths in Canada. A total of 1,535 died from an opioid-related overdose, according to the Ontario Coroner’s Office.

In addition to the increase in overall numbers in 2019, this past spring also saw an uptick in overdose deaths in Ontario. During March, April and May of 2020, there were 25 per cent more overdose deaths than over the same period in 2019.

A release from the Community Drug Strategy North Bay and Area states that the pandemic is not the only epidemic we are facing.

“The drug poisoning crisis has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in two concurrent public health crises. It is evident that urgent action is needed to address the opioid poisoning crisis that is co-occurring with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release states.

The Community Drug Strategy, which is part of the Municipal Drug Strategy Coordinators Network of Ontario (MDSCNO), has penned letters to health ministers at all levels of government to take action on:

  • Immediately fund and scale up the implementation of safer supply initiatives to save lives,
  • Support the implementation of safer supple initiatives by adding the required formulations, such as hydromorphone and diacetylmorphine, to the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary to enable safer supply initiatives to operate, and
  • Improve the health, safety and well-being of people who use drugs in our province

International Overdose Awareness Day is recognized on August 31, and the Community Drug Strategy has planned online events and information until September 4 to raise awareness.

The Health Unit, Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing, Giyak Moseng – The Right Path Counselling and Prevention Services, West Nipissing General Hospital’s Alliance Centre, the AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area, Nipissing Mental Health Housing & Support Services, Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres and the Community Drug Strategy North Bay & Area are all involved in the awareness campaign.

The Community Drug Strategy says that there have been 15 opioid-related deaths in the area in 2020, with more expected.

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