The Peterborough area had 44 suspected opioid-related deaths in 2021, up one from a year prior, according to a report to be presented Wednesday night during Peterborough Public Health’s board meeting.
The report to be presented by medical officer of health Dr. Thomas Piggott notes 44 suspected overdose deaths — a number that could change depending on further updates from Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner. Peterborough Public Health serves Peterborough, Peterborough County, Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation.
The region saw a spike in opioid overdoses and emergency department visits in late December, prompting the health unit to issue a drug alert.
The report outlines the following opioid-related deaths over the past five years:
- 2016: 10 deaths
- 2017: 16 deaths
- 2018: 27 deaths
- 2019: 29 deaths
- 2020: 43 deaths
The report also notes paramedic calls for opioid-related incidents surged by 106 per cent in 2021. Paramedics responded to 540 calls, compared with 262 in 2020. Peterborough County-City Paramedics saw “unprecedented calls” between May and July with many of the responses in “outdoor settings.”
Opioid-related visits to the emergency department at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) are two times higher than provincial averages, the report notes. Men between age 25 and 44 accounted for the “majority of the ED visit,” the report states.
Safe consumption and treatment site
Work continues on a proposed safe consumption and treatment site (CTS) at the former Greyhound bus station on Simcoe Street in the city’s downtown. Last fall, $160,000 was raised via the Light the Way fundraising campaign to help complete renovations to the building.
The opioid response hub in June received federal approval (and Criminal Code exemption) from Health Canada to provide a safe, hygienic space for people to use drugs under the supervision of health professionals to prevent opioid poisoning deaths.
It’s currently the only site in Ontario to receive a federal exemption from the Criminal Code.
The site is still awaiting approval of annual funding from the Ontario government. As a result no timeline has been set for when services — including wraparound health services — will begin (see below for a list of services planned).
Among the groups involved are PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network), the Peterborough 360 Degree Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic and Fourcast, who also work closely with PRHC. In October 2020, PARN relocated its Harm Reduction Works program to the building shortly after it opened in October 2020.
Piggott’s report recommends sending a letter to the Ministry of Health for an update on the project.
Donna Rogers, executive director with Fourcast, says they continue to await a ministry decision as one of 25 supervised sites expected to be funded in Ontario.
“Currently the Peterborough application is the only one in Ontario that has the required federal exemption to meet the provincial application process,” she told Global News. “We are the only ones currently pending a decision at the ministry. We are at the front of the line where there is no one else in line … that’s how I describe it. So far this government has not funded any new CTSs.”
The hub will provide services on-site and within the community including:
- Virtual Care Clinic
- ON Telemedicine Network
- Wound Assessment
- Harm Reduction Supplies
- Opiate Replacement Therapy
- RAAM Clinic Detox
- AA/NA Groups
- Residential Treatment
- Community Treatment
- Children’s Aid Society
- Old Age Security
- Ontario Works
- Ontario Disability Support Program
- Canada Pension Plan
- Ontario Disability Support Program
- Housing Resource Centre
- New Canadian Centre
- Indigenous Services
— More to come