Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Announces Funding to Fight Opioid Overdoses and Deaths

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Announces Funding to Fight Opioid Overdoses and Deaths

Article excerpt

Ontario pledges funds to fight opioid overdoses

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TORONTO - Ontario is putting an additional $222 million over three years toward fighting an opioid crisis that the government said claimed the lives of 865 people in the province last year.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins made the announcement in Toronto on Tuesday, as the province released the latest figures on opioid deaths.

"This is a national crisis comprised of literally thousands of individual tragedies," Hoskins said. "Each life lost represents a valued individual."

More than 700 doctors, nurses, harm reduction workers and academics called on the province this week to declare opioid deaths and overdoses a public health emergency, as British Columbia did last year. They say limited resources and poor data are preventing them from responding properly to a disturbing and sustained increase in overdoses.

But Premier Kathleen Wynne said an emergency declaration is more appropriate for time-limited events.

"When there's an emergency declaration you're usually dealing with a situation that has a beginning and a foreseeable end, whether it's a flood or a fire," Wynne said. "The challenge with this situation is this is not a situation that has a foreseeable end. We're talking about a crisis that is going to be ongoing."

Data released Tuesday shows that 865 people died in 2016 in Ontario due to opioids. Ontario Public Health data shows 728 opioid-related deaths in 2015.

The funding announced Tuesday brings the province's total commitment to fighting the opioid crisis to $280 million over three years.

The funding includes $20 million to expand the supply of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone to at-risk people by distributing it through emergency departments.

"Similar to now in all of our correctional facilities, naloxone is made available, offered, for inmates upon discharge, so it will be a policy...that ERs make naloxone available in a similar fashion," Hoskins said.

The funding also includes $70 million to expand access to treatment and community-based withdrawal management services and addictions programs, and the expansion of rapid access addiction medicine clinics across the province, as well as $10 million to add more front-line harm-reduction workers. …

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