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Opioid-related deaths decline since introduction of temporary overdose prevention site: MLHU

Dr. Chris Mackie said the temporary overdose prevention site is helping to change public perceptions about treatment centres and people in crisis.
Dr. Chris Mackie said the temporary overdose prevention site is helping to change public perceptions about treatment centres and people in crisis. Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL

The introduction of London’s temporary overdose prevention site (TOPS) has coincided with a marked decline in the number of fatal opioid overdoses.

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Local health and political officials shared newly compiled data during a news conference Thursday morning at Innovation Works on King Street.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie noted in the first three months of 2018, 22 people in London and Middlesex County died from opioid poisoning.

London’s TOPS opened up in February of that year and in the second quarter, the number of deaths was reduced by nearly half, to 12. That number declined further in the third quarter to eight.

“Every indicator we were seeing — overdoses in the community, we were seeing them in the clinic, we were seeing police reporting fentanyl seizures — all of that pointed to fentanyl really hitting our community, and we should have, by all accounts, seen a spike in deaths. We did not see that,” Mackie said.

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Sonja Burke of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection said they’re working hard to build relationships with clients who visit TOPS.

“Each interaction has value because based on that interaction they’ll tell another person, will tell another person, tell another person,” she said.

A graph showing the number of opioid-related deaths in London and Middlesex.
A graph showing the number of opioid-related deaths in London and Middlesex. Jake Jeffrey/980 CFPL

Dr. Mackie added that the TOPS is helping to change public perceptions about treatment centres and people in crisis.

“I think every time people hear about the work that is happening and understand what is actually going on in the facility, it’s not just that there’s drug use here, there’s a really caring model that supports people as human beings and that becomes the doorway through which people walk and can connect with all sorts of other services,” he said.

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Officials said since the temporary overdose prevention site opened there have been more than 13,000 visits and staff have reversed 83 overdoses.