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Opioid-related fatalities in district dropped moderately in 2023

SUDBURY—New data reported by the Sudbury Community Drug Strategy shows a small but not insignificant drop in opioid fatalities, paramedic calls and overdose incidents at hospital emergency rooms. Further, the Sudbury opioid surveillance initiative indicated a slight decline in illicit drug use in the region. However, the numbers are still elevated, compared to the provincial average.

The Community Drug Strategy (CDS) is responsible for collecting the opioid surveillance data and it is reported on the Public Health Sudbury and District (PHSD) webpage, which also states that the numbers are only the initial numbers to date.

Still, the number of opioid-induced deaths in the Sudbury-Manitoulin districts from January 2023 to July 2023 shows 44 fatal overdoses compared to 62 in the same period in 2022.

According to these same records, it appears that the worst months for opioid deaths were January and April, with nine and 10 deaths occurring, respectively.

The current count for this year is reduced, yet the surveillance report highlights a noteworthy discrepancy. It indicates a local annualized mortality rate of 36.2 deaths per 100,000 people annually, markedly surpassing Ontario’s overall rate of 17.4 deaths per 100,000 population per year. The total number of deaths in the Sudbury-Manitoulin District amounted to 112 in 2011.

The surveillance page included details on Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services’ responses to opioid-related emergency calls from January to November this year. They attended to 604 suspected opioid-related incidents, as reported by CDS. This contrasts with the 661 incidents reported during the same period in the previous year, from January to November 2022. Figures were also gathered for the number of emergency department visits for confirmed opioid overdoses, according to the CDS report.

“From January 2023 to November 2023, there were 343 visits to emergency departments in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts for confirmed opioid overdoses,” said the newest report. “This compares with 419 visits to emergency rooms for the same period last year, January to November 2022.”

While this decline raises hope locally, ER visits are still elevated compared to provincial numbers.

“This represents a local annualized rate of 179.4 visits per 100,000 population per year, significantly higher than the rate in Ontario overall, 80.8 visits per 100,000 population per year,” said the CDS report. September was the worst month for ER cases of non-fatal overdoses in 2023, with 52 visits recorded.

Jacqueline St. Pierre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Manitoulin Expositor