Opioid crisis update from police

May 17, 2018 | News


Opioid deaths are growing in Ontario according to recent studies. (Flickr, VCU CNS)

Chanel Sethi

Canada faced over 4,000 deaths in 2017 from opioid drug overdose, according to police officers who attended a Toronto conference on the opioid crisis on Wednesday.

“We are facing a major crisis here. The approaches we have made in the past aren’t working, we have to work collaboratively to develop ways that will make a significant difference,”  Toronto police superintendent Ron Taverner said.

Taverner, spoke about the challenges posed by the opioid crisis and the serious affect it’s having on the country.

“In order to reduce this crisis we need to work together and take the approach of prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement the four pillars to make a change,” he said.

He emphasized that policing can only handle so much, saying this is a problem for ‘health care, social agencies and families affected through traumatic overdose.’

“There is a number of actions law enforcement is doing, trying to interdict any fentanyl or opioid type drug that’s on the street,” Taverner said. “ When you drill down to the safe level issues of people using these types of drugs, police can use naloxone, and public education, but we cant just do it alone.”

Ontario has implemented injection sites for opioid users, treating them with naloxone, in hopes of keeping people safe.

Taverner said another approach is getting more funding from the government in order to have better addiction centres and medical facilities.

“One of the things we need to approach is the whole addiction problems and addiction centres and how we can help people into those facilities a lot quicker with less expense to those families. It all comes down to more funding by our government,” he said.

“We need to change whats happening here. It isn’t by having someone safely inject drugs it’s by getting them off drugs and having programs that we as a community can provide,” Taverner said.

Dr. Rosanna Salvaterra, medical officer of health in Peterborough, said that opioid related overdoses are now a leading cause of death in Canada, especially for people of who are of working age.

“Certainly in Peterborough we noticed an increase in opioid related harms in 2017 and we have been working collaboratively through a drug strategy with partners like our local police to come up with a response that’s comprehensive and effective,” Salvaterra said.

Salvaterra said the other roles for public health include ensuring they have efficient data across 35 boards in Ontario.

She also said its important to make sure emergency departments have naloxone kits, that naloxone gets passed down to community partners, and that communities have a strong emergency response prepared for opioid related deaths and overdoses.