Toronto Public Health reports new single-day record for overdose calls

·2 min read

Toronto Public Health is alerting the public to a sobering new single-day high for overdose calls, which comes on the heels of a tragic month for fatal overdoses in the city.

Toronto Paramedic Services attended about 40 suspected overdoses between Friday and early Saturday morning, including three deaths, public health reported Saturday.

That's the highest number of reported overdose calls in a 24-hour period since monitoring began in 2017.

"We provide this data with respect and a deep appreciation for what they mean, and how they refer to our loved ones, friends, families and colleagues," the health unit said in a news release.

"The tragic and substantial losses that people have faced from the ongoing drug poisoning crisis, and the grief experienced, are immeasurable."

On Friday, Toronto Public Health reported that December 2020 set a record for fatal opioid overdoses attended by paramedics in a single month — a total of 34 -- since monitoring began.

It said preliminary data also indicates 30 calls for fatal suspected opioid overdoses between Jan. 1 and Jan. 26.

Public health noted Saturday that the city’s drug checking service has found unexpected and "highly potent" drugs in the unregulated supply over the last few months.

The health unit is asking people to use naloxone and call 911 in the event of an opioid overdose.

Public health also previously noted that such calls to paramedics were 90 per cent higher overall in 2020 than in 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic "intensified" the opioid crisis.

It's advising people who use drugs to do so with someone else, while wearing masks and keeping six feet apart, or to use at a supervised consumption site if possible.

Health board chair Joe Cressy said in a Sunday statement that Friday’s numbers set a devastating record for the city.

He's calling on all levels of government to invest in new solutions to the crisis.

"People are dying each day. We can't wait any longer," Cressy said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2021.

The Canadian Press