Opioid crisis action plan announced

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The Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) Steering Committee released a strategy Wednesday to address opioid use, addiction, and overdose in the region.

The action plan reflects more than a year’s worth of work. It incorporates input from about 45 local agencies and organizations, and the voices of individuals who have experienced the harms of opioid misuse, whether directly or through friends and family.

“Opioids are prescribed for a variety of legitimate reasons, but prescription and illicit opioid misuse, addiction and overdose demand urgent attention,” said Dr. Rebecca Van Iersel, co-chair of SMOS. “It’s time for action to help people living in the communities of Simcoe and Muskoka, which is exactly what this comprehensive strategy outlines.”

The action plan’s completion could not come soon enough, said Dr. Lisa Simon, co-chair of SMOS, as statistics for 2017 show 74 confirmed and four probable opioid overdose deaths in Simcoe Muskoka. These 78 deaths represent a 70 per cent increase over the 2016 total of 46 deaths, and continue to show that the impact in Simcoe Muskoka is above the provincial average.

“The impact of opioids in our region has been devastating,” Dr. Simon said. “Deaths are only the tip of the iceberg, with huge effects on individuals, families, communities, and service providers. As was said to me by an individual with lived experience of opioid use, we cannot let this become our new normal.”

The SMOS plan is structured around seven key pillars for action, including prevention, treatment/clinical practice, harm reduction, enforcement, emergency management, data and evaluation, and lived experience. Many of the initiatives included in the pillar action plans have already begun to take shape. Examples include:

• The website preventOD.ca is now live. Managed by the County of Simcoe, it contains resources for organizations working on this issue, as well as information and tools for the public, including anonymous reporting of bad drugs.

• A collaborative early warning alert system for outbreaks of overdoses is being developed, with some alerts being issued through the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit since last summer.

Both co-chairs commented on the effectiveness of the SMOS coalition of organizations and people from many different walks of life in our communities. The dedication all members have shown to this project is an indication of how serious the opioid crisis is in Simcoe Muskoka.

The report of the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy is available online at preventOD.ca.

The Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy is a multi-sector comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing opioid harms in Simcoe and Muskoka.

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