Item - 2015.HL6.4
- This item was considered by Board of Health on September 22, 2015 and was adopted with amendments.
HL6.4 - Overdose in Toronto: Trends, Prevention and Response
- Decision Type:
The Board of Health:
1. Endorsed in principle the recommendations in the Municipal Drug Strategy Co-ordinator's Network of Ontario report, Prescription for Life , Appendix A to the report (September 1, 2015) from the Medical Officer of Health;
2. Requested the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to develop a comprehensive provincial overdose prevention strategy for all drugs, informed by the recommendations in the Prescription for Life report; and
3. Urged the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to designate a lead within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to facilitate short-term action on overdose prevention and response and lead the development and implementation of a comprehensive provincial overdose prevention strategy.
Decision Advice and Other Information
The Board of Health forwarded the report (September 1, 2015) from the Medical Officer of Health to the Minister of Health of Canada, the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Canada, Corrections Canada, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Public Health Ontario, the Council of Medical Officers of Health, the Association for Local Public Health Agencies, the Ontario Public Health Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and the Municipal Drug Strategy Co-ordinator's Network of Ontario.
Drug overdose is a significant public health issue in Toronto, as it is across North America. Between 2004 and 2013 there was a 41 percent increase in the reported number of people dying from overdose in Toronto – from 146 in 2004 to 206 in 2013, the highest annual number to date. Of particular concern is the increasing role of opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl in these deaths. Recent media attention has highlighted the growing number of deaths caused by fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, in communities across Canada.
The risk for overdose is present for many types of drugs, including prescription drugs, alcohol and illicit drugs. Individuals taking prescribed medications can experience an overdose as well as people who use drugs for non-medical reasons. The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario (OCCO) is the main source for data on drug overdose deaths in Ontario. The Coroner investigates each death and records them as accidental (unintentional), suicide (intentional) or undetermined. The main focus of this report is on accidental deaths, as they comprise the majority of drug overdose deaths. Most of these deaths are preventable.
This report highlights public health concerns about overdose in Toronto and outlines action being taken by Toronto Public Health (TPH) and other stakeholders to prevent overdose. The report also recommends additional actions, including urging the provincial government to develop a comprehensive overdose prevention strategy for all drugs informed by the Municipal Drug Strategy Co-ordinator's Network of Ontario (MDSCNO) report, Prescription for Life, and to designate a single point of coordination to facilitate action on this issue.
Appendix A: Municipal Drug Strategy Co-ordinator's Network of Ontario, Prescription for Life, June 2015
Dennis Long, Member, Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel
Jessica Slotnick, Mental Health and Harm Reduction Worker, Street Health
Amend Recommendation 4 by also forwarding the report to the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada.