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Local opioid overdoses on the rise - but below provincial average

by Patrick Raftis

GUELPH - While Wellington County’s rate of opioid poisoning cases remains below provincial and regional averages, local public health officials are creating an online resource to help agencies combat what is clearly a growing addiction problem.

On Nov. 30 Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer updated Wellington County council on the health unit’s role in battling the opioid crisis.

“We really take a harm reduction approach for our community,” said Mercer, CAO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH).

“We work together with certain groups such as the Upper Grand District School Board as well as all of our substance misuse or addiction prevention action groups.”

Mercer noted public health also plays a key role in distribution of naloxone, administered as an antidote for opioid overdose.

“We are the point of naloxone distribution for the community and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are the distributor, but what we do is get the naloxone and distribute it to approved groups so it can get out to the community.”

Wellington County’s rate of emergency room visits for opioid poisoning has remained consistently below the provincial average since 2012, while rates in Dufferin County and Guelph have exceeded the average.

In 2016, Wellington saw about 24 emergency room visits per 1,000 residents, while the provincial average was nearly 32 visits per 1,000. Guelph and Dufferin had about 38 and 41 visits respectively.

“You are tracking below the provincial average and certainly well below the average for City of Guelph and the County of Dufferin,” said Mercer.

“Over the years, from 2012 to 2016, essentially the rates for the County of Wellington for opioid poisoning have remained stable,” ranging from just over 17 to around 24 visits per 1,000 during the period, Mercer explained.

Over a 10-year span, she noted, “the rate for the County of Wellington has shown a very slight but consistent increase.”

In 2005, public health records indicate there were fewer than 10 ER visits per 1,000 residents for opioid poisoning.

Mercer told council WDGPH is building an online opioid resource reflecting what is happening in the neighborhoods of users and families, with the goal of developing the most effective strategies and programs for decreasing drug poisonings.

“We are building an online opioid resource which will collect all of this information and it will be available shortly to our community,” said Mercer.

She added the information will be provided to agencies and organizations providing programs for decreasing not just opioid-related issues, but drug poisonings or overdoses “in a broader sense.”

Mercer told council, “Public health is not just interested in opioids, but it’s interested in all other substances.”

She pointed out that while a grave concern, opioids are by no means the most abused substance in the region.

“In our area the number one substance is alcohol. Number two would be crystal meth,” Mercer said.

“Opioids actually are not the number one drug of choice.”

December 8, 2017


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