Ontario creates Opioid Emergency Task Force to combat opioid crisis

Oct 5 2017, 12:24 am

The Toronto Fire Services (TFS) fire trucks now carry Naloxone for patients suffering from a suspected opioid overdose.

The announcement comes on the same day that the Ontario government said it is establishing an Opioid Emergency Task Force that will include front-line workers.

“The administration of Naloxone by trained TFS staff will enhance the level of service TFS provides to the public,” said Fire Chief Matthew Pegg in a release. “Acknowledging the urgent public health crisis across Canada and the marked increase in opioid-related emergencies in Ontario, TFS, in alignment with the current tiered response protocols, will enhance service delivery through the administration of Naloxone.”

The Ontario Task Force will bring together representatives from province-wide system partners working to combat this emergency, including front-line workers in harm reduction, addiction medicine, and community-based mental health and addiction services, according to the province.

“The devastating impact of the opioid crisis has reached every community across the province and our government is committed to using every tool possible to reverse this heartbreaking trend,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “Through the creation of the Opioid Emergency Task Force, we will ensure that the people directly affected by this devastating public health emergency have a voice and the support they need to live with dignity.”

Last fall, Ontario’s Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose was introduced, ensuring people in pain receive appropriate treatment, increasing access to holistic treatment for those with opioid use disorder, and improving the safety and health of people who use opioids, including access to the life-saving drug naloxone.

The province also began distributing Naloxone kits for free across Ontario.

Meanwhile in Toronto, City Council endorsed the Medical Officer of Health’s report entitled Toronto Overdose Action Plan: Prevention and Response earlier this year. From 2015 to 2016, the number of opioid toxicity deaths in Toronto increased by 33%.

The report requested the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to provide Naloxone to community service providers, first responders and correctional facilities. According to the City, access to emergency pre-hospital care, including the administration of Naloxone, plays an important role in the City’s drug strategy, which is based on the integrated components of prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement.

TFS’s medical oversight for Naloxone administration is provided by the Fire Services Medical Director at the Sunnybrook Centre for Pre-Hospital Medicine through a physician-reviewed set of medical directives.

Over the next 3 years, the province is investing over $222 million to combat the opioid crisis in Ontario.

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