SUDBURY -- The Porcupine Health Unit is issuing a public safety alert after an increase in rates of suspected opioid events within the Cochrane District.

The alert is on behalf of the Opioid Emergency Response Task Force to inform people who use substances, their friends, family, and the public.

“The PHU and community partners continue to monitor and respond to opioid and substance use,” Dr. Lianne Catton, medical officer of health, said in a news release. “The opioid crisis remains a significant concern for our communities. We urge all community members to show compassion and kindness and to make sure we are taking care of and looking out for one another.”

Most overdose deaths happen when someone else is not around to intervene. The task force is encouraging people who use substances to never use alone and connect with someone who can call for help if needed.

People who use substances can also call into the Overdose Prevention Line any time of day or night at 1-888-853-8542.

Users are encouraged to test a small amount first, avoid mixing substances and carry a naloxone kit.

"If you suspect an overdose, call 911 immediately, administer naloxone if available, and wait for help to arrive," the health unit said. "The Good Samaritan Act provides protection from arrest and breaches for simple possession."

The Opioid Emergency Response Task Force are members of the Timmins and Area Drug Strategy who survey and report on data that may warrant response through public alerts, increased naloxone distribution, and information for people who use substances and their loved ones.

Data is collected from area emergency departments, first responders and partner agencies.

People who use drugs, and their family and friends, should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to provide first aid, including administering naloxone, the health unit said.

Free Naloxone kits are readily available throughout the area at Porcupine Health Unit offices and at many pharmacies. A list of sites is available here.