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Opioid-related deaths in Sudbury still exceed provincial average

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Public Health Sudbury and Districts recently released data on opioid-related incidents in Greater Sudbury for the first four months of this year.

The number of opioid deaths from January to April was 33, down slightly from 42 deaths during the same time last year.

Caroline Lavoie, a public health nurse with the community drug strategy team, said while numbers decreased slightly, they are still far higher than the provincial average.

"Our rate for this year so far (is) 47.6 per capita of 100,000,” Lavoie said.

“The province currently to this date is 17. So there's a big difference there. And it was the same for last year, as well.”

Lavoie said Public Health Sudbury and Districts has ramped up its communication strategy with the public and community partners.

"Releasing drug warnings, staying in contact with our local partners, knowing what we're seeing in the community to get out the information before harm is caused," she said.

She said the current drug supply in the community is extremely toxic. Frontline workers have informed public health that they have to administer more than one dose of Naloxone, a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Mobile outreach and support group the Go-Give Project echoes the concerns of toxic drug supply. Ali Farooq, program coordinator, said workers are seeing heavier intoxication.

Since the start of the year, Farooq said workers have responded to four to five overdoses a month on average.

The number of opioid deaths in Greater Sudbury from January to April was 33, down slightly from 42 deaths during the same time last year. (Photo from video)

"People are getting more and more intoxicated on the supply they're currently using," Farooq said.

"There's also high increase in (skin) infections … We’re seeing a lot of open wounds, staph infections, strep infections, so that has certainly picked up recently."

Réseau Access Network has had its safe consumption site open since last September. It is currently funded by the Greater Sudbury, but that funding is supposed to run out Dec. 31.

Site manager Amber Fritz said they still waiting to hear on the status of its funding application. Fritz said the application was submitted in August 2021, but haven't heard anything since.

Fritz said the thought of not having the safe consumption site available is concerning.

"Its horrifying, for lack of a better word, to think a site that’s proven to save lives in the midst of an ongoing drug poisoning crisis is potentially or slated to close," Fritz said.

"Supervised consumption sites save lives and that’s been proven over and over and over again."

Public Health Sudbury and Districts said it is currently organizing a drug toxicity summit in December, to bring together decision-makers, organizations and individuals with lived experience to start a conversation and come up with solutions.

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