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Health unit reports increase in suspected opioid overdoses

According to Dr. Catton, Medical Officer of Health, PHU is working to ensure that naloxone is readily available across all communities
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NEWS RELEASE
PORCUPINE HEATH UNIT
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The Opioid Emergency Response Task Force has issued a public safety alert. Through information received from emergency services, an increase in suspected opioid overdoses has been identified in Timmins and the surrounding area.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the PHU and community partners continue to monitor and respond to opioid and substance use within our communities.

Dr. Catton, Medical Officer of Health, Porcupine Health Unit says, “We all play a critical role in improving community awareness and reducing tragic outcomes. That is particularly important right now as many organizations have had to change the way they are delivering services. Formal and informal supports may look different to our community members during COVID-19.”

An opioid overdose occurs when an individual ingests more of a substance, or combination of substances, that interferes with breathing and brain function. Naloxone is effective in temporarily reversing the effectsof an opioid overdose. Dr. Catton advises, “it is safe to administer naloxone by nasal spray as it is not an aerosol generating medical procedure and as such important to not delay response during COVID19.”

If you suspect an overdose, call 911 immediately, wear available personal protective equipment, such as a mask and gloves, administer naloxone if available, and wait for help to arrive. If CPR is going to be done, only use chest compressions and do not provide rescue breaths. There are other ways to reduce the risks of an overdose, including calling someone before using and leaving the door unlocked in case Emergency Medical Services (EMS) need to respond, using small doses, and avoiding mixing substances.

According to Dr. Catton, the Porcupine Health Unit is working with all community partners to ensure that naloxone is readily available across all communities, especially at this time when there are so many urgent needs related to COVID. People who use drugs, and their family and friends, should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of overdose and how to provide first aid, including administering naloxone.

Free Naloxone kits are readily available throughout the area at Porcupine Health Unit offices, Living Space, and at many pharmacies. A list of sites is available at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-naloxone-kits-free. The Timmins and Area Drug Strategy is a collaboration with several key community partners in health and social service sectors working to comprehensively address opioid and substance use within our communities.

The Opioid Emergency Response Task Force are members of the Timmins and Area Drug Strategy who surveil and collect data that may warrant response through public alerts, increased naloxone distribution, and information for people who use substances and their loved ones.

The Porcupine Health Unit is located in Northeastern Ontario, serving the entire Cochrane District and Hornepayne, in Algoma District. The main office is located in Timmins, Ontario, with branch offices in Cochrane, Hearst, Hornepayne, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing, Matheson, Moosonee and Smooth Rock Falls.

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