2016 will be remembered as the year of the fentanyl crisis on the West Coast.
In Vancouver alone, the highly addictive opioid, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, was responsible for up to 800 deaths as a result of overdose last year in Vancouver alone.
Doctors are saying the epidemic is getting worse, which has Toronto Mayor John Tory on high alert. Yesterday, he held a news conference to discuss how the city will prepare for the drug’s surge, which resulted in almost twice as many overdose deaths (45) in Toronto last year compared to the year before.
“It is not acceptable in our city, it is not acceptable in our country that people who in many cases are suffering from a form of mental illness through addiction are dying in a lonely fashion and dying without us doing everything we can when we know there are things we can do to prevent those deaths,” he said, adding that he’d been warned by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to “get ready.”
Tory’s priority will be increasing access to overdose-fighting medication, such as naloxone. He wants more drug stores and first responders to be able to administer what he calls an EpiPen for fentanyl.
He also supported Ontario’s recent funding of three supervised injection sites, which are expected to open in a few months.
Another issue is a lack of data on opioid overdoses and deaths. Toronto’s most recent numbers date back to 2015, while Vancouver can access these statistics on a monthly basis.
Tory has created a special task force, the Toronto Overdose Early Warning and Alert Partnership, to oversee his initiatives and provide a better understanding of fentanyl.