A new report finds areas of Guelph, Wellington County and Dufferin County have one of the lowest numbers of opioid-related deaths in Ontario.
The report released by Public Health Ontario shows that Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph had 23 deaths resulting from opioid use compared with 39 in 2021, 25 in 2020 and 35 in 2019.
The number of opioid-related deaths in the first six months of 2022 puts Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph 27th among the 34 public health units in Ontario.
Manager of the Wellington-Guelph Drug Strategy Adrianne Crowder believes a series of support services being established in Guelph may have contributed to the low death rates.
“The Guelph Community Heath Centre, Stonehenge, Arch, Sanguen — they have been out of the gate pretty quickly,” Crowder said. “Applying for those services and getting them embedded into our community faster than in many cases our neighbouring communities.”
There were 2.2 opioid-related deaths for every 100,000 residents in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph during the first six months of 2022.
Despite the low figures, Crowder says it remains a huge problem for a city like Guelph.
“Twenty-three deaths in the first half of the year is still very high,” said Crowder. “A lack of action to address this problem is part of what we need to do differently. It needs to be put into mainstream health care.”
The report says there were 1,278 opioid-related deaths during the first six months of this year, down from 1,487 during the first half of 2021.
“This is a significant tragedy that is ongoing and continuing, which requires a much deeper, broader response in my mind,” chief coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Another factor to consider is the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people who died in 2022 because of opioid overdose was up 55 per cent compared with 2019.
“The rate of fatal drug poisoning has increased noticeably as had the rate of hospitalization in that time,” said Crowder. “The pandemic became a complex issue for people who used substances and the situation they face definitely got worse.”
Parts of northern Ontario saw the highest rate of opioid-related deaths, with Thunder Bay at 42. There were 29 in Greater Sudbury and 28 in Timmins.
— with files from The Canadian Press