The Middlesex-London Health Unit will receive $250,000 from the province as part of a $15-million effort across Ontario to address the opioid crisis.
The Ontario government announced last Monday that it would commit more money to allow the province’s 36 public health units to increase staff and provide more kits containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
On the same day, London police took the rare step of issuing a warning about the risks of drugs after officers were called to six overdose incidents involving eight people, including one fatality, over a three-day span.
The funding will help the Middlesex-London Health Unit increase staff capacity to address the crisis, enhance its naloxone program, and create opportunities for local innovation.
“We are hoping that partners will join us in using a social innovation approach to tackle opioid abuse in this region,” says Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of health and CEO with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
“Last year, our Board of Health endorsed and funded the creation of a street-level outreach team that has been actively working in our city to engage with people who inject drugs where they are, and to provide the kind of support they need on the ground.”
The opioid crisis has been worsening across Canada, with the federal government introducing updated prescription guidelines in May in hopes of curbing the crisis and the Public Health Agency of Canada reporting a national opiod death rate of 8.8 per 100,000 population.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit sounded the alarm a year ago after discovering local HIV rates were climbing while provincial rates were on the decline. In London, more than 2.5 million needles are distributed to drug users each year.