Time to Remember, Time to Act
On Thursday August 31, 2017 community partners and emergency services representatives will gather once again to help mark International Overdose Awareness Day by the ceremonial lowering of the flags at the Peterborough Police Service headquarters.
Along with the lowering of the flag, during International Overdose Awareness Day community agencies are partnering to offer three take-home naloxone pop-up locations in the City (at Silver Bean Café in Millennium Park, Peterborough Square and One Roof) where anyone can come and get free training and a naloxone kit.
International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event that occurs each year on August 31st. It was established to commemorate loved ones who have died due to overdoses related to alcohol and other drugs. It also aims to raise awareness about overdoses and reduce the unnecessary stigma too often associated with drugs and drug-related deaths.
Peter Williams, of the Peterborough Police Service says, “International Overdose Awareness Day helps bring attention to an issue that is affecting many individuals and families across our city and county, reminding us of the importance of further enhancing our prevention, education, services and programs to address overdoses, stigma and harms associated with overdose and substance use. This is about saving lives.”
Over the last year, there have been a number of local initiatives working to help to reduce the chances of overdose by increasing the availability of naloxone.
The Peterborough Overdose Prevention Program (POPP) distributes naloxone, a lifesaving antidote to an opioid overdose to anyone who wants a naloxone kit. Kits are available through Peterborough Public Health, PARN or FourCAST. Between January and June of this year, POPP distributed more than 135 kits.
In February 2017 the Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) also became one of the first hospitals in Ontario to give take-home naloxone to patients at risk of overdose. Research shows that 17 per cent of people who have a non-fatal overdose will have another overdose within two years. This successful program was a result of the strong partnerships that exist in our community between the partners of the Peterborough Drug Strategy and PRHC.
“Overdoses are preventable and we all have a role to play in keeping our loved ones, ourselves, and our friends and neighbours safe,” says Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health.
Opioids are pain-relieving drugs and include both prescription medications such as oxycodone and fentanyl, as well as illegal formulations such as heroin. The harms associated with these drugs are a significant public health and patient safety issue. Since 2003, the number of deaths has increased 99 per cent with more than 700 Ontarians dying from opioid-related causes in 2015.
Currently, it is estimated that two people every day die from an opioid overdose. In addition, non-fatal opioid overdoses have been estimated to be 20 to 25 times the number of deaths. Accidental overdose is the third leading cause of unintentional death in Ontario – a figure that far surpasses deaths due to traffic fatalities.
The most recent data shows us that Peterborough ranks 6th out of 49 communities in Ontario for the rate of opioid-related deaths and 7th for rate of Emergency Department visits. Overdoses continue to affect people of all ages, genders and socio-economic backgrounds, including those using as prescribed or those experimenting. Understanding the signs and how to respond is the first step to preventing harm.
Before naloxone is administered, the first priority is to call 9-1-1. Good Samaritan legislation, passed earlier this year, prohibits basic possession charges from being laid when police arrive to the scene of an overdose.
“The Peterborough Police Service has prioritized addressing opioid use and misuse in an effort to prevent overdoses and opioid-related harms for a number of years,” says Inspector Larry Charmley, Chair of the Peterborough Drug Strategy and Inspector with the Peterborough Police Service.
“Our Service has been and continues to be focused on saving lives and not laying drug related charges when someone has overdosed,” adds Peterborough Police Chief Murray Rodd.
“When our officers attend the scene of an overdose their number one priority is on ensuring the safety of all those involved and helping to garner information to support the appropriate medical treatment for the person who has overdosed.”