With the latest Sudbury public health figures showing a 40-per-cent jump in the number of "suspected opioid-related incidents" in less than a year, a new public awareness video campaign has been launched by Sudbury Rainbow Crime Stoppers.
Crime Stoppers said this is phase-two of the Youth Opioid Awareness Campaign (YOAC) that was first launched last summer. The new phase of the program includes four interview videos and four YOAC videos that will be rolled over the course of several weeks. The videos will include comments from community partners including the Regional Coroner's Office, Laurentian University Forensic Science, Sudbury Action Centre for Youth (SACY),
"As members of our local, provincial, national and global communities it is a social imperative that we all do everything in our power to mitigate the negative impacts of the opioid crisis," said a Crime Stoppers news release.
This comes at the same time as newly released numbers from Public Health Sudbury and Districts and the Community Drug Strategy shows a marked increase in the number of suspect opioid-related incidents that occurred from January through to the end of November 2021.
In that time, Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services responded to 797 suspected opioid-related incidents, said the PHSD opioid surveillance report.
For the same period in the previous year, 2020, Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services responded to 570 suspected opioid-related incidents, said the report. That is a percentage increase of 39.8 per cent.
The opioid surveillance report also showed just a marginal increase in emergency department visits from January 2021 to the end of November 2021. The report said there were 523 visits to the emergency department at Health Sciences North (HSN) for suspected accidental overdoses in that period. For the same period in the previous year in 2020, there were 504 visits to HSN for suspected accidental overdoses
The year-over-year figures are not complete to the year end, but they do give an indication that the opioid situation continues to be serious in Sudbury. The total number of "confirmed opioid overdoses" presented at hospital emergency wards only shows numbers from January to the end of September in 2021.
The numbers show there were 372 visits to emergency departments in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts for confirmed opioid overdoses in 2021, and there were 333 visits to emergency departments in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts for confirmed opioid overdoses for 2020.
It was not a big increase, but overdose visits were up by more than 11 per cent.
The numbers regarding opioid-related deaths were even less revealing, according to the PHSD report. It only showed what it described as "preliminary data" for the period of January 2021 to the end of June 2021.
In that period, 54 residents of the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts died from an opioid-related overdose, said the report. For the same period the previous year in 2020, 44 residents of the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts died from an opioid-related overdose. While the numbers are incomplete, it shows a 22 per cent increase for the first half of 2021.
In the meantime, Crime Stoppers said it is reaching out to the community with its awareness campaign and will be pleased to provide a YOAC presentation to different groups upon request. Interested groups are advised to contact email@example.com.
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.
Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com