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article imageToronto moves ahead with plan to tackle illicit drug overdoses

By Karen Graham     Jan 6, 2017 in Health
Toronto - Toronto Mayor John Tory, along with City Manager, Peter Wallace, and others will meet on Monday for the first in a series of monthly meetings to build a strategy to deal with and prevent any spike in fentanyl and other illicit drug overdoses in the city.
British Columbia suffered the worst month for illicit drug overdoses in November 2016, with as many as four people losing their lives every day from fentanyl and other illicit drugs. BC's coroner's office issued a report last month showing that 374 overdose deaths involving fentanyl were detected between January and October 2016, an increase of 194 percent over the previous year.
The statistics are shocking and worrisome. Last month, Digital Journal reported on the opioid crisis in Canada, and what the federal government was doing to address the epidemic, and that is what this crisis has become as the increase in the use of illicit drugs moves from the west to the east.
Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Mayor John Tory
When the news broke about BC's November overdose statistics, Toronto Mayor John Tory contacted his counterpart, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, offering his help, according to CBC News. Tory was told there wasn't much he could do from afar, other than to prepare for the eastward spread of illicit fentanyl, the drug fueling BC's crisis.
Mayor Tory was so rattled by the advice from Robertson he decided to throw his political weight behind the formation of a series of monthly meetings with the intent of developing a strategy to deal with the coming illicit drug crisis, involving nearly 20 organizations, including police, paramedics, hospital officials, and harm reduction advocates.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s acting medical officer of health will be chairing the first series of meetings of the “Toronto overdose surveillance & alert partnership." The first meeting is scheduled for this coming Monday, reports the Globe and Mail.
Mayor John Tory
Fentanyl is often mixed with cocaine and heroin by traffickers and dealers to give the user a bigger "kick" and to save money because the illicit fentanyl is cheap. It can be bought over the Internet from drug manufacturers in China. The problem with fentanyl is that it is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
One important change in the use of illicit drugs, and particularly fentanyl usage was noted by BC officials — it is not just drug addicts using illicit drugs anymore. Victims of overdoses now include recreational drug users, people with jobs and families, and that is very troublesome.
So what can we expect from the monthly meetings in Toronto? According to Tory, the meetings will build on the work already being undertaken by Dr. Yaffe and Councillor Joe Cressy (who heads up the city's drug strategy program);basically, these meetings will look at the problem and try to develop a strategy.
Shaun Hopkins, manager of the Toronto Public Health’s “The Works” harm-reduction program, in an interview with Metro News on Thursday, said, “By putting preventative measures in place and looking at this issue in a comprehensive way, hopefully, we will not experience the kinds of deaths and situations they are seeing in Vancouver.”
More about Canada fentanyl crisis, Toronto mayoral race, dealing with overdoses, BC overdose deaths, national crisis
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