Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Use evidence to save lives from opioid poisoning

According to figures from the government of Ontario, there were at least 1,261 deaths across the province in 2017 attributed to opioid poisoning. That’s an increase of 45 per cent over the previous year when 867 deaths were recorded. Despite the dedication and efforts of many health professionals, peer workers, and community volunteers, the death toll continues to rise.

There is robust evidence that supervised injection services (SIS) and overdose prevention services (OPS) are helping to save lives as part of a comprehensive response to drug use. Supervised injection services allow people to inject drugs under the supervision of trained registered nurses and other health workers who provide sterile supplies, overdose prevention and management, as well as other health and social support services.

Given the scale of the opioid poisoning crisis, Health Canada announced in December 2017 that it would grant exemptions to the province of Ontario, allowing temporary OPS sites to operate. London was the first city to have a sanctioned OPS site in the province. Since opening its doors in February, nurses and outreach workers have supervised more than 4,700 injections and there have been no deaths due to overdose.

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott has indicated that SIS and OPS are under review "to see if they have merit and are worth continuing." Temporary approval and funding for the London OPS site has been extended until Sept. 30. While this briefly extends the life of the province's first sanctioned OPS site, the ministry has ordered a halt to the opening of any new OPS sites. This includes the scheduled opening of OPS sites in Thunder Bay, St. Catharines and Toronto. Instead of pausing this intervention that saves lives, the ministry must scale up OPS and SIS as needed across the province.

We urge you to:
• Sign the action alert below addressed to Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine
Elliott
• Share this action alert with your networks and urge them to sign and send it to others

Copies will be sent to:

  • Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
  • Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition
  • John Fraser, Interim Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
  • Michael Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario
  • France Gélinas, NDP Health critic
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