Hundreds of doctors, nurses, harm reduction workers and academics are calling on the Ontario government to declare opioid overdoses and deaths an emergency.
The group delivered an open letter on Monday to Premier Kathleen Wynne, arguing limited resources and poor data are preventing them from responding properly to a disturbing and sustained increase in overdoses.
Among those who signed letter is Adrienne Crowder, Manager of the Wellington-Guelph Drug Strategy.
“I signed it because working within the drug strategy with local partners, we know that we don’t have the resources locally to act as quickly as we’d like to,” Crowder said in an interview with CJOY News.
In the letter, the group argues an emergency declaration would allow for increased funding to front-line harm reduction workers, more overdose prevention sites and opioid programs.
In the first six months of last year, 412 Ontarians died of opioid overdoses – an 11-per-cent increase from the previous year. That is currently the most recent data available on opioid deaths.
But Crowder said even that data is now outdated.
“We need good, local data in real time and currently we don’t have a means to collect that,” she said. Unfortunately at the moment the information is very anecdotal, rather than very accurate and that’s a challenge for everybody.”
Health Minister Eric Hoskins has noted Ontario launched a strategy on opioid addiction and overdose last year, has provided funding for new front-line addiction and mental health workers and is distributing more than 6,500 kits with the overdose-reversing drug naloxone each month.
Hoskins’ office said significant further supports will be announced soon as part of the opioid strategy.
Still, Crowder said this is an urgent situation.
“The situation isn’t going to get any better until something changes.”
With files from The Canadian Press