As the opioid crisis continues across the country, the rate of prescription and illicit street drug abuse in Peterborough continues to have devastating effects on families and the community.
As a result, several Peterborough agencies have come together to form an early monitoring system.
The system is part of a provincial program that functions like a task force in an effort to keep track of opioid incidents and alert the public in the event of a bad batch of drugs hitting the streets.
“The way it works is we rely on data that’s been collected by our partners, whether it’s the police, firefighters or the hospital, and we monitor the data and we share it, and if one of us notices something is looking a little different, we alert the others,” explained Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Peterborough’s medical officer of health.
The early monitoring task force formed in the fall of 2018 and has already put out a call to warn the community of opioid dangers on five occasions.
In November, police issued a public warning about a bad batch of purple heroin that had been related to poisonings in the community.
“It’s all related to opioids,” said Salvaterra. “And it’s really there to help us work more collaboratively to protect the community.”
When it comes to opioid overdoses, it’s well known that naloxone, when administered early and properly, can save lives.
Peterborough paramedics understand that, as they have been responding to an increasing number of calls related to opioid abuse each year. Last year’s total of 160 cases was up 20 per cent from the previous year.
“Out of (those) 160 calls, our paramedics gave Narcan or naloxone 50 times,” said Jeff Wilson, superintendent of quality care with the Peterborough paramedics. “That leaves about 110 times left that it (naloxone) was either given by a first responder, fire department, police or it was delivered by a bystander of a peer.”
Paramedics say they are seeing more bystanders carrying naloxone and that some members of the public have educated themselves on how to give the overdose medication.
“We’ve seen a drastic increase in peer of bystander administrations of Narcan,” said Wilson. “It’s up over 100 per cent from previous years.”
Although paramedics have seen a decrease of approximately 53 per cent in their administration of naloxone, the number of opioid overdoses remains high, as Peterborough ranks fourth in the province when it comes to opioid-related deaths.
There’s hope that this new collaborative early monitoring system and the data it captures will help to save lives, and paramedics are reminding the public that anyone who encounters a suspected opioid overdose should call 911 immediately.