Toxic Drug Supply: The lived experience of those affected and a call to action

May 3, 2024

The toxic drug crisis that is now killing an average of 10 Ontarians every day will be the focus of a media conference organized by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) to close Nursing Week.

While Nursing Week (May 6-12) is mainly regarded as a time of celebration, RNAO will take the opportunity to shine a light on this crisis, share solutions, and renew its demand that the provincial government take the steps needed to stop a tragedy that is ravaging communities across Ontario.

Almost 3,800 people died due to an unregulated and toxic drug supply in 2023, leaving countless families and friends forever mourning their loss.

“These were preventable deaths and the government has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all Ontarians, including those who use substances. Harm reduction supports such as consumption and treatment services (CTS) and supervised consumption services (SCS) are essential to frontline efforts to keep people well and alive,” says RNAO president Dr. Claudette Holloway. 

RNAO is alarmed at the closure of two SCS sites and deeply concerned with delays in getting other CTS sites up and running in various communities that have applied. At a media conference scheduled for Friday, May 10, RNAO will share the lived experiences of those affected by the drug poisoning crisis, and outline what needs to happen to stop the crisis in its tracks. This includes reopening supervised consumption services sites in Sudbury and Windsor, providing funding so the site in Timmins can remain open. RNAO also seeks assurances that any community that identifies a need be provided with the necessary funding to support people. For example, the city of Belleville declared a state of emergency earlier this year after 23 people collapsed within 48 hours because of drug toxicity, with six people dying between Feb. 25 and March 15 alone. And, Peterborough, which saw a 26 per cent increase in overdose deaths in 2023.

“The evidence tells us that meeting people where they are is crucial to helping them overcome their struggles. Our health system takes care of those who have cancer or chronic illnesses such as a heart condition or diabetes. Yet, we are turning a blind eye to those who struggle with substance use. People and families need more support, not further stigma and inaction,” says Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s CEO.

WHAT: The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) holds a virtual media conference to demand action on the province’s toxic drug supply

WHEN: Friday, May 10, 2024 at 10:30 a.m. ET


  • Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO
  • Dr. Claudette Holloway, RNAO president
  • Kathy Moreland, RN and member of Moms Stop the Harm (Windsor)
  • Neil Stephen, RN (Sudbury)

WHERE: Online via Zoom. All media are invited, but must register online to attend.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public we serve. For more information about RNAO, visit or follow us on X (formerly Twitter)FacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.

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Contact info

Marion Zych
Director of Communications
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)