By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Durham Region has added another tool in the battle against the ongoing opioid crisis.
In early June, the region’s health department launched the Durham Region Opioid Information System (DROIS).
The purpose of the system is to provide the public and healthcare sector with local, up-to-date information related to ambulance calls, overdoses and deaths.
According to public health nurse Jaime Poole, DROIS is part of the region’s Opioid Response Plan originally developed in 2018.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health has required all provincial health units to develop such a system.
Poole says the data includes opioid-related calls for paramedics, which will be updated weekly.
Emergency department visits related to opioids will be updated monthly, and opioid-related deaths will be updated quarterly. This information comes from the Ministry of Health, and office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario respectively.
Since DROIS launched in June, there have been 68 suspected overdose calls received by Region of Durham Paramedic Services (RDPS)
Sixty-three per cent of these calls were made from Oshawa.
Between Jan. 1 and July 13, RDPS received 353 calls related to suspected overdoses. In the same time span in 2017, the service only received 202 calls.
The second highest municipality for calls was Whitby, which only represented 13 per cent.
The number of Durham emergency room visits in June was down significantly to about 35. In May, there was approximately 55.
However, DROIS only currently has data for overdose-related deaths until the end of 2017.
Poole says the collected data will allow local healthcare providers and organizations to better understand and address the opioid crisis.
“Moving forward we will be keeping track of the trends and continuing to update the system,” she adds. “The information is part of a larger response plan.”
Earlier this summer, the region also launched a public awareness campaign regarding the stigmas associated with opioid drug use.
The campaign is titled “People Who Use Drugs Are Real People. Get Informed. Get Involved. Get Help.”
It will include posters, website information, videos and social media posts.
Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter, who appears in a campaign video, says he wants to be part of all regional efforts to “remove the stigma and educate people regarding all the dangers [of opioids].”
Carter, who speaks openly about his past struggles with addiction, said beyond the stigma, there is a great deal of shame.
“It plays a significant role in people coming forward with their issues… that is what holds people back sometimes,” Carter told The Oshawa Express.
For more information about DROIS, visit durham.ca/opioidstats or call Durham Health Connection Line at 905-666-6241 or 1-800-841-2729.