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Push for safe drug access increasing, as overdose numbers grow in Guelph

There have been 15 suspected overdose deaths in Guelph in 2020, compared to seven in all of 2019
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On Monday, it will be Overdose Awareness Day.

And ahead of that day, the Health Ministers at both the federal and provincial level have been getting letters from members of the Municipal Drug Strategy Co-ordinators Network of Ontario --- including the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy --- who are making their voices heard on the issue of safe access to drugs.

Their manager, Adrienne Crowder, told The Mike Farwell Show on 570 NEWS they need all three levels of government to coordinate on the subject.

She says the federal side needs to provide access to certain types of opioids and funding for the programs.

But on the provincial side, the "Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary" is something they need to keep in mind.

"It's the drugs that are available at no cost to the public," she said, "They need to change certain formulations of hydromorphone and diacetylmorphine that are available, so that the programs, that actually happen at the local and municipal level can provide those to the clients."

No response has come yet, but there's some hope of a positive outcome.

Crowder pointed out that with the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen how all three levels coordinate with one another.

"(If they) need to work together well, and quickly, they can," she said.

There's optimism related to the success of similar programs in place in other cities.

Crowder says the results have been "phenomenal" in those other places, where the retention rate tends to be around 100 per cent.

"I can't think of very many medical trials that could indicate that they have that kind of retention rate," she said.

Guelph looks to be long past the point where action is needed on the matter.

Already in 2020, there have been 15 suspected overdose deaths there.  That's compared to the seven people dead in all of 2019.

In Waterloo Region, 54 people have died of a suspected overdose (as of August 5), slightly lower than the 63 last year.

Across Ontario, there's been a 35 per cent increase in deaths between March and July of 2020, compared to 2019.

And things don't look better when looking at the national totals.

"We're just very troubled to see the situation moving in the direction it's moving," Crowder said, "And we do know with a safe supply program, it'll mitigate the risk of some people who currently, every day, having to face that risk on the street."



Mark Pare

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