Toronto is being called upon to expand and improve its services within the already tense shelter system to avoid a fatal increase in opioid overdose. This situation seems to threaten Toronto this winter.
Toronto recorded 132 suspected opioid overdose deaths between April 1st and September 30th, almost double the mortality rate recorded in the last two years.
Of these deaths, 18 occurred in municipal shelters. This is expected to cause the shelter system to buckle in the coming months, and improvements are needed to prevent more people from dying.
“I’m scared,” said Roxy Danielson, a street nurse in downtown Toronto. “More people are dying.”
Danielson said the pandemic exacerbated the city’s opioid crisis in several ways. Harm reduction services and secure consumer sites have saved time and capacity, but she explained that more people are experiencing homelessness and isolation as a result of financial turmoil and other restrictions.
People heading to shelters are under-supported, Danielson said, saying that people “use alone in the washroom” rather than in a monitored environment with health care workers. Added.
“It would be great if we could increase the healthcare and harm reduction services built into the shelter system,” Danielson told CBC Toronto.
Monitored consumption areas are regulated by the state government. The city operates a safe consumption area at The Works, but similar services are not available at shelters.
Toronto temporarily expanded its shelter system during the pandemic, adding nearly 2,300 beds. Many of them are in hotels and motels and may contribute to the increased mortality from overdose.
In a statement, the city said that these spaces “may be more isolated than traditional aggregate settings. This can exacerbate the problem of addiction and lead to increased overdose. “.
Evacuation shelter users “do not just need a safe place to sleep”
Adopted by the Toronto Health Commission on Monday Some new measures To combat the opioid crisis, including a call to “urgently expand” overdose prevention and harm reduction programs available in shelters.
Health Committee Chairman, Coun. Opioid deaths in Toronto could “surge” this winter without improved medical services or additional funding, Joe Cressy said.
He said the enhanced shelter system must be part of a strategy to prevent fatal overdose.
“People in our shelter system don’t just need a safe place to sleep,” Cressy said. “They need wraparound healthcare support, and it’s urgent now.”
Cressy noted the $ 7.7 million investment made by the city to expand harm reduction services in shelters during a pandemic, but the state must intervene in additional funding and regulatory changes. Said.
He accused the Ford government of “ideological refusal of public health advice” in dealing with the opioid crisis.
Dr. Irene de Villa of the Toronto Department of Health made similar recommendations for state changes. In this month’s report, she said the state should convene an urgent overdose task force to expand supervised consumer services.
Ontario invests $ 3.8 billion in mental health and addiction programs
In an email to CBC Toronto, the Ontario Department of Health did not indicate that it would consider the changes that Toronto had proposed to enhance services within the city’s shelter system.
“We know that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak was challenging among many people and families throughout Ontario, especially those with mental health and addiction problems.” Wrote a spokesman for the province.
The state instead highlighted the $ 3.8 billion 10-year roadmap for wellness plans to improve Ontario’s mental health and addiction programs. This plan was introduced before the first wave of the pandemic.
The Ontario government said it would continue to fund 21 monitored consumer sites that are licensed to operate state-wide.
Street nurse Danielson said the solution to prevent death from further overdose was clear and well-known, but worried that government omissions would eventually dominate.
“There are doubts about the political side of things changing,” she said.
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