The Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) is getting a funding boost to help address the region’s opioid crisis as HIV rates climb.
Upwards of $250,000 will be given to the health unit as part of the provincial government’s $15-million investment to support opioid response initiatives across Ontario.
Though the exact terms of the funding have yet to be established, the funding is meant to help increase staffing levels to address the crisis, enhance the naloxone program and support work on early warning and monitoring for opioid overdoses.
During Thursday’s Board of Health meeting, officials also outlined a provincial funding request for over $1.5 million over a three-year period to address the current HIV epidemic.
“It’s spreading through people who inject drugs in London and it’s really out of keeping with what’s happening in the rest of the province,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of health for the MLHU.
“Since then, we’ve been working with partners and with the provincial government to figure out what programs we need to put in place, reach out to people who are injecting drugs, change their high-risk behaviours, get them into treatment and get their HIV well controlled.”
Rates of HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases are on the rise across the region.
“Most of the funding has already been committed by the MLHU and some small grants from the federal government and the provincial government,” said Mackie.
The health unit also hopes the province will cover the cost of four outreach nurses and one harm reduction outreach co-ordinator, along with other program costs.