PARN planning to open a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site in Peterborough

Peterborough, ON – In response to the growing opioid crisis, PARN is planning to expand its existing Harm Reduction services to include a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site.

Peterborough had the 4th highest annual rate* of opioid-related deaths between July 2013 and June 2016 and ranked 3rd highest in the number of opioid poisoning hospitalizations in 2016/17 in Ontario**. Twenty people are suspected to have died from opioid overdoses in Peterborough in 2017.

The Temporary Overdose Prevention Site will provide people who use opioids with a space where they can use those drugs under the supervision of health professionals in order to prevent overdose deaths. This site is intended to be in operation for three to six months. PARN is collaborating with community partners and people who use injection drugs to identify a location for a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site. Once a location is found, an application will be submitted to the Government of Ontario for funding. The approval process takes approximately two weeks. Community information sessions will be scheduled once a location has been identified.

“The opioid crisis is far from over,” says PARN Executive Director Kim Dolan. “In our community, we will likely see more overdoses in the coming year and, sadly, more deaths than we have ever seen. This complex crisis is a call to action. With leadership from both the Provincial and Federal Governments, we have an opportunity to immediately respond to the opioid crisis and save lives.”

“The tragic reality is that people – our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours, our children, our parents – are needlessly dying,” continues Dolan. “ A Temporary Overdose Prevention Site will provide trained staff, peers and volunteers who will be able to intervene immediately should an overdose occur.”

The creation of a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site in Peterborough became possible in December of 2017 when the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced an expanded response to Ontario’s opioid drug crisis. Former Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins wrote to the federal government requesting that Ontario be allowed to approve and fund overdose prevention sites. The Province began accepting applications for sanctioned Temporary Overdose Prevention Sites in early January.

“It is clear that this crisis is a concern for everyone in our community. I am proud that PARN is taking the lead and expanding their services to include a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site,” says Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal. “This site will provide necessary health services that are accessible and free of stigma that will help save lives.”

International and Canadian research shows that this type of service has benefits both for individuals using the services and for the community.

“There is well documented international research demonstrating that services offering supervised drug consumption benefit not only the individuals using them but the broader community with outcomes such as reduced overdose deaths, reduced public drug use, reduced discarded equipment in public spaces, and increased use of treatment services. They have also been found to be cost effective and do not increase crime in the area around the service,” says Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health, Peterborough Public Health. “Peterborough has experienced increasing rates of overdoses and related harms and we have an opportunity to take advantage of provincial funding and policy to offer a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site as one more important harm reduction strategy to help us reach the people at greatest risk.”

“Our Service supports community partnerships and evidence-based initiatives to save lives and reduce harm including the creation of a Temporary Overdose Prevention Site,” says Peterborough Police Service Chief Murray Rodd. “We have seen firsthand the devastating impact and tragedy that opioids, and more recently fentanyl, has had on our community in recent years. The stigma related to addictions is causing isolation and we are seeing more overdoses and deaths as a result.”

“We cannot arrest our way out of addictions,” continues Chief Rodd. “We cannot arrest our way out of this health crisis. Our service remains focused on those who profit from the illicit drug trade and not those who are victims of it. Until we can discover ways to get at the root cause of the issue community agencies will continue to work together and support the cause of providing safe spaces that have a medical intervention component for those with addictions.”

In collaboration with Peterborough Public Health and the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, PARN has been the lead agency providing harm reduction services in the four counties since 2000. Through a partnership with Lakeridge Health’s Positive Care Clinic, PARN has augmented its Harm Reduction program by providing on-site testing for HIV and other blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections.

“Health care service providers and community agencies are working together to access the provincial health care system’s new Temporary Overdose Prevention Site program,” says Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett. “Through their collaboration and dedication, they are responding to the opioid crisis that’s affecting individuals and families in Peterborough and in communities throughout Ontario. They are helping to save lives, prevent illness and connect people who use substances with services that can assist them.”

Fast Facts

  • Peterborough Public Health Unit ranked 4th highest in terms of average opioid related deaths per 100,000 population between July 2013 and June 2016*
  • Peterborough ranked 3rd in the number of significant opioid overdose hospitalizations in 2016/17.**
  • Peterborough ranked 4thin the number of opioid poisoning Emergency Department visits in 2016/17.**
  • In 2017, Peterborough County/City Paramedics (PCCP) report that they experienced a 65% increase in Overdose/ Intoxication type calls, compared to an average yearly increase of 15% between 2014-2016. The average age of opioid related overdose patients in 2017 was 36 years old.
  • There were 336 opioid-related deaths in Ontario from May to July 2017, compared with 201 during the same time period in 2016, representing a 68 per cent increase.
  • From July to September 2017, there were 2,449 emergency department visits related to opioid overdoses in Ontario, compared with 1,896 in the three months prior, representing a 29 per cent increase.
  • In addition to sanctioning Temporary Overdose Prevention Sites, Ontario is investing more than $222 million to combat the opioid crisis in Ontario, including expanding harm reduction services, hiring more front-line staff and improving access to addictions supports across the province.

* per 100,000 population out of the 36 Ontario public health units. Source: Ontario Drug Policy Research Network.

**adjusted for the size of the community, out of 15 communities in Ontario with a population greater than 100,000, as defined by Canadian Institute for Health Information.