​By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

The Toronto Board of Health is considering a set of measures in order to push back against the crisis of overdoses. There was a plea from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for immediate declaration of a health emergency in the public.

There has been a huge spike in overdoses and deaths related to opioids across the country, as well as Ontario. The Board of Health for Toronto met after a report was published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Five people were hospitalized every day between April, 2016, and March, 2017. Toronto had the highest opioid-related hospitalizations in the province. More than a year ago, British Columbia made a public declaration of a health emergency in the province.

Councillor Joe Cressy, Chair of the city’s Drug Strategy Implementation Panel, said, “If the province declares it an emergency, as a result of that, dollars can flow quickly to the people who need it and the organizations that are responding.”

There was collection of real-time data about overdoses. This is to identify areas of risk. Of course, unfortunately, the data comes with the assumption of deaths or overdoses. There was an open letter to the government of Ontario.

Harm reduction advocate, Zoe Dodd, said, “The province said to us when we asked for it few weeks ago that there was no end in sight, that they weren’t going to call [an emergency]. But that is exactly why you call a public health emergency, because there needs to be an end in sight.”

Subsequently, $222 million in funding is being provided for the next 2 1/2 years for the hiring of front-line harm-reduction workers. This is also in order to create addiction clinics with quick access as well as the supplies of Naloxone, which can help with the prevention of overdoses.