Sudbury health officials to ramp up fight against opioid crisis
SUDBURY -- Public Health Sudbury and Districts is adding a regional approach as part of its arsenal to address the opioid crisis facing the city by working closely with local advocates.
It's been a busy week for Public Health Sudbury and Districts, which is now expanding how it is tackling the opioid crisis currently facing the city and region.
According to health officials, who quoted recent numbers from the provincial coroner's office, Sudbury has the highest rate of overdose, followed by the Cochrane District, Algoma, Thunder Bay, and North Bay/Parry Sound.
The health unit has been looking to get a supervised consumption site in place for almost a year but is continuing to have issues finding a site.
"One of the factors in finding this location has been concern from neighbours and just feeling that the site wasn't going to be best located in that area, but we've also encountered other obstacles -- things like inappropriate zoning or it being too far to walk," said public health nurse Josee Joliat.
Joliat countered negative comments of stigma with findings from a recent survey the health unit did that determined two-thirds of Sudburians are in favour of supervised consumption services.
On Thursday, the Sudbury health unit's board voted to work with advocacy partners to amplify ways of addressing the crisis head-on.
"When it comes to addressing the harms of substance use, for Public Health Sudbury and Districts, I think where we're heading is that on Thursday, our board passed a motion for us to keep doing the work that we're doing with the Community Drug Strategy and the other work that we're doing," Joliat said. "But also to really amp up what we're doing and look at all options and solutions."
Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger, in a recent virtual news conference, said it was concerning to hear that the local public health agency was "hitting a wall" in the battle against the opioid crisis.
"I am aware of some significant drug busts over the last year, but as I think everyone is aware, it is a significant challenge in our community," Bigger said in response to the number of drugs coming into the city.
Talk of the drug strategy and the update from the mayor's downtown task team also comes as STOPS, an unsanctioned overdose prevention site in Sudbury, was threatened with a trespassing warning letter from the city bylaw department.
The city has told the site's organizers they are not to be conducting services on city property otherwise police would get involved.
Organizers are asking for the mayor to come down and see what they're doing in person.
“If you aren’t going to allow us to operate on city property, what is your immediate response to the opioid crisis," a STOPS founder asked of the mayor in a news release issued on Friday.
Bigger, who has been a proponent of the supervised consumption site, said he believes it could be realistically a year with the necessary approvals the city needs before supervised consumption becomes a possibility in the city.