CMHA election monitor: All parties falling short on promises to solve the opioid crisis

Promises by all parties fail to go far enough to address the opioid crisis that has claimed at least 10,440 lives since 2016.

Imagine party leaders making tour stops in places like Kapuskasing, Parry Sound, Goderich or Renfrew only to find the entire population of these communities have been wiped out.

This would be the case if you consider these towns have fewer people than the number who’ve died from opioid-related causes over the last six years. This situation was a crisis before the pandemic; COVID-19 made things worse. Data from the chief coroner’s office indicates at least 4,780 opioid-related deaths since April 2020. “If it weren’t for the pandemic, this would be the greatest public health crisis in a generation,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario. “The commitment from all parties to tackle opioid-related harm is a start but the measures simply don’t go far enough,” she said. In addition to decriminalization efforts, restarting an opioid task force, increasing supportive housing and expanding availability of naloxone, CMHA Ontario recommends:

  • Ensuring opioids, which on the illicit market are often mixed with deadly fentanyl, are safer toconsume by supporting federal safer supply policies and programs.
  • Establishing and funding supervised consumption services in every high-risk community across theprovince.
  • Creating mobile supervised consumption services that can be deployed to meet demand in non-urban settings.
  • Provide every at-risk community with funding to develop and coordinate local drug strategies thatmay include local drug strategy coordinators.
  • Providing consistent and ongoing funding for grief and trauma supports for frontline workersresponding to the drug poisoning crisis, people who use drugs and family members.

In Ontario, death rates related to opioid poisoning are worst in central and northern Ontario.

Northeastern Ontario including Cochrane, Algoma and Sudbury has the worst death rate in the province: 44.7 per 100,000 people.

Northwestern Ontario including Thunder Bay, Kenora and Rainy River is next at 33.8 per 100,000.

North Simcoe and Muskoka region, including Barrie, Orillia and Collingwood, has the third highest opioid-related death rate in Ontario: 24.7 per 100,000 people.

CMHA Ontario is using week four of its “I Choose” election campaign to spotlight the need for greater action on the opioid crisis, substance-related issues as well as behavioural addictions. For more information, visit www.ichoosemha.ca or follow #ichoosemha on social media.

Fast Facts:

  • Men 25-44 account for the greatest proportion of emergency department visits, hospitalizations anddeaths related to opioids in Ontario.
  • Ontario accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all opioid toxicity deaths in Canada since 2016.
  • Since 2016, Ontario has experienced the most opioid-related deaths in Canada compared to otherprovinces.

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