Katalin Algar and Fedy Warr: Canada’s opioid epidemic continues

Photos from Ottawa showing children learning to use inhalers for asthma

Ottawa’s response

An expert team led by a pharmacist from the University of Ottawa, assisted by public health officials, had started working in the city just before November 2017, when word spread about an E. coli outbreak in the Communipawah Valley. They joined with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the city’s mayor, Jim Watson, in a series of public meetings and produced an action plan that focused on preventing childhood outbreaks of life-threatening E. coli. The team would ultimately employ 2,500 people to help address Ottawa’s drug problem.

In June 2018, in response to the overdose crisis in Ontario, Public Health Ontario worked with 91 communities across the province to develop programs to support outreach workers and reduce public health risk during outbreaks. Community and local health workers are now trained in identifying overdose hotspots to distribute naloxone to people at risk of overdoses.

“We can’t continue to let the opioid crisis get worse.”

Advocacy: a near monopoly

Overdose deaths in Ontario were nearly double the national average in 2016. While deaths continued to increase in 2017, homicides and suicides fell in Ontario, and Ontario is no longer the only province with a violent crime rate above the national average. This shrinking of criminal murder and suicide rates is a trend that cities should be encouraged to continue. But advocates would also like to see Ontario’s homicide rates fall further, and more work can be done to reduce the underlying social conditions that drive children to take drugs.

Reducing drugs in Ottawa

More work remains to be done. Ottawa’s first wave of the opioid crisis was fueled by the withdrawal of older prescription opioids and a plethora of illicit opioids from Canada and overseas. Of the approximately 16,000 people who died in Canada from overdoses last year, 86% died in the eight provinces and the two territories.

Leave a Comment