Opioid-related deaths in Ontario increased by 52 per cent from January to October 2017 compared to the same period the year before, according to newly released data from the provincial government.
The province said there were 1,053 opioid-related deaths during the 10-month period compared to 694 in 2016.
The government also said emergency department visits related to opioid overdoses jumped 72 per cent between January to December 2017 to 7,658 from 4,453 in 2016.
The province has been criticized for its lack of transparency and laggard data collection methods in response to the growing opioid crisis.
Despite changes enacted last May in the way the Ontario coroner’s office collects data on opioid-related deaths, critics say the province is still behind places like British Columbia which have month-to-month data sets readily available.
Ontario has promised to commit $280 million over three years to fight the opioid crisis, including distributing naloxone through emergency departments, pharmacies and correctional facilities, expanding access to addictions programs and improving data collection and monitoring.
The province announced it is making available “easy-to-use” nasal spray naloxone kits for free at pharmacies.
As part of the province’s strategy on opioid prevention and addiction, the Ontario government moved last year to offer naloxone kits to police and firefighters across the province.
Naloxone, the overdose-reversing medication, will be given to all 61 police services across the province and all 447 municipal fire departments.
The province said it is adding additional supports to health and addiction providers to enhance treatment services for clinics and youth groups, as well as hiring new front-line health and social service workers.
The government said it has also approved four new safe injection sites in the province, the latest being in London which opened last month. Sites are already open in Toronto and Ottawa.
VIDEO: Province making naloxone kits available for all first responders
—With a file from The Canadian Press