The city of Hamilton revealed that the number of people dying from opioid overdoses continues to increase at an alarming rate. In all of 2016, 52 people died, however the first ten months of 2017 saw 75 people succumb to opioid overdoses. With 75 and possibly more killed by opioids, that puts Hamilton’s death rate at 78% higher than the provincial average.
“The numbers being up is shocking but not surprising and we knew this was going to happen and we need to react quicker than originally anticipated.” Mayor Fred Eisenberger.
In December, city council approved the introduction of the city’s first safe injection site. Recently, members of public health and service providers offered their support for the AIDS Network to house the initiative. The AIDS Network declined comment because it hadn’t started the province’s application process. But once it does, ward 2 councillor Jason Farr thinks the province would move quickly, for everyone’s gain.
“With provincial election looming and this being the product of the Liberal government there may be some thinking political in this application process and want to expedite before that election occurs no doubt.”
As the city waits for it’s safe injection site, 298 kits of the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone have been distributed so far this year, saving 78 lives, but not everyone is handing out the drug. Hamilton police say they currently don’t equip their officers with Naloxone for several reasons. One, they believe that medical professionals like paramedics should be handling the life saving drug and that user fear persecution by police for using opioids in the first place.
In December the province announced that it will supply all of Ontario’s police and fire departments with Naloxone. In St. Catharines, firefighters are training to become the first fire department in Niagara to provide Naloxone to those in need. Hamilton’s fire department will meet with the board of health on March 19th to get approval for program participation.