Picture this — an individual is overdosing on opioids, paramedics arrive and treat the patient, but the individual is still a bit hesitant to be transported to the hospital, so they might not end up receiving valuable information on addiction resources and harm reduction.
A mobile team of outreach partners on the ground is being created in Peterborough, and it could change all of that.
“If they refuse to go to the hospital, one of the questions that we’ll be teaching our paramedics to ask is: ‘Would you like to be referred to a support team that’s recently been created, to assist you and your needs in finding social services, or other needs that you might have within the community?'” said Craig Jones, Superintendent of Community Programs and Emergency Management for Peterborough Paramedics.
“It’s an amazing opportunity that we’ve never had before.”
The team will be created thanks to $1.9 million from the Government of Canada announced Wednesday, which will go to Peterborough Police, Peterborough Paramedics, Peterborough Aids Resource Network (PARN), and Four Counties Addiction Services Team (FourCAST) over the next four years.
The community partners applied for this funding a year and a half ago, and learned they’ve been awarded the money this June.
Its a much-awaited opportunity, according to the partners, and it is geared towards an incredible need.
“We know that there’s been well over 100, maybe 160 calls for service related to opiate overdoses just in this year,” said Peter Williams, Community Development and Engagement Coordinator for the Peterborough Police Service.
“We know that 29 people have died of opiate-related suspected deaths in the first 6 months of this year, which is already almost the same number as last year.”
Williams said the team will be compromised of two full-time case managers in addiction treatment, along with one peer support individual from PARN who has lived experience with drug use, and a paramedic.
PARN said there will probably be a total of two teams in the area.
The team will visit the individual who has overdosed, chat with them about the possibility of pursuing addiction treatment, have the paramedic assess their medical condition or treat an abscess or wound, and inquire about any other needs such as housing.
The goal is to reach an individual within 24 hours of their overdose.
Jones says just like the individual has the right to refuse transport to the hospital, they also have the right to refuse this meeting.
The partners expect the team will direct opioid users away from incarceration, and towards seeking help. They say it could also potentially prevent a fatal overdose.
“We have data that shows that there are some people in our community that have overdosed 6-8 times within the last six months,” said Charles Shamess, executive director of PARN.
“That means they’re at a very high risk of a fatal overdose. If we can get to those folks, and get them the support and help that they need — even if it just means more access to naloxone — then we can potentially save their lives.”
Williams says the community partners are yet to name the coordinator of the project.
There is also a paid position to conduct a 31-month study of the project, and gather data on its potential positive impact.
The data will be sent back to the federal government, said Shamess, so that they could assess whether or not the project should be expanded across the province.