There have been 13 suspected opioid-related overdose deaths so far in 2021 in Peterborough, health officials announced Wednesday.
During a media conference hosted by the Peterborough Drug Strategy and Peterborough Public Health, officials provided an update on the city’s ongoing opioid crisis. Officials say the 13 suspected overdose deaths occurred from Jan. 1 to March 23. The Peterborough Drug Strategy is a collective of community-based organizations in Peterborough city and county tackling substance abuse, focusing on prevention, harm reduction, enforcement and treatment.
“The data will not be confirmed until PPH receives reports from the Office of the Chief Coroner, and this is delayed by months,” the health unit noted. “Until information is received from the Office of the Chief Coroner, the number of deaths in the community remains preliminary data.”
In 2020, there were 39 suspected drug-related deaths in the health unit’s jurisdiction — Peterborough, Peterborough County, Curve Lake First Nation and Hiawatha First Nation.
That also included 86 responses by paramedics for overdose-related calls between Oct. 1 and December 2020, officials reported Wednesday. Seventy per cent of those calls involved men with 51 per cent of them from people ages 25 to 44. In addition, 44 per cent of the calls occurred between 4 p.m. and midnight.
There were 30 suspected drug-related deaths in 2019 in the city.
In addition, officials say emergency room visits from opioid overdoses are nearly double the provincial rate, the health unit reported — an incidence rate of 151 per 100,000 versus the provincial average of 81 per 100,000.
Officials say the deaths are a “public health crisis” that deserves more public attention and requires a “caring and community-wide” approach to address harmful substance use.
“Whether you use drugs yourself, know someone who does, or just read about opioids in the headlines, we all have a role to play to champion the public health interventions that can truly make a difference in our region,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, the health unit’s medical officer of health.
Further media briefings are planned to raise more public awareness of the opioid crisis and address the stigma of drug addiction and to develop evidence-based solutions to address it.
“The goal of these future media briefings is to increase public education of substance use, and facilitate the regular release of substance-related data,” explained Salvaterra. “It is our hope that this communication plan will raise the awareness surrounding the complexities of substance use, the roles and services provided by each agency in our community, and the ways in which the public can help improve the local situation.”
PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network) says it receives information from the health unit and police service on a regular basis. Over the past months, PARN has been able to shift its service delivery model when there are spikes reported in overdoses or evidence of highly tainted drugs in the area.
“PARN continues to focus on providing services to the people most at risk for drug poisoning in Peterborough,” said executive director Dane Record.