Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Use evidence to save lives from opioid poisoning

More than 2,300 people have already responded to RNAO's action alert urging Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott to immediately approve and fund overdose prevention services to save lives.

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% 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 saving 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.

Christine Elliott - Minister of Health and Long-Term Care - indicated that SIS and OPS are under review "to see if they have merit and are worth continuing." The Sept. 30 deadline is rapidly approaching when temporary OPS will lose their federal exemption and provincial funding unless the provincial government takes action. The temporary OPS in London, as an example, is only authorized to operate until Sept. 30 despite an influx of toxic opioids in the area. In August, this site was able to reverse 23 overdoses with oxygen and naloxone without any deaths.

Not only are these critical health services at risk of disruption, three new temporary OPS in Thunder Bay, St. Catharines, and Toronto have been prevented from opening. While the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is doing its review of an already proven intervention, lives continue to be lost. Just when the Toronto OPS was stopped from opening, Toronto police reported seven deaths in a 12-day span in that community.

Instead of halting this intervention that saves lives, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott must scale up OPS and SIS 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. The opioid crisis is viral, let's go viral with our urgent call for action!

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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