A total of 34 people died from opioid-related deaths in Greater Sudbury in 2017, members of the emergency services committee were told Wednesday.
Melissa Roney, acting deputy chief of emergency services, told the committee that statistics weren't yet available for 2018. But emergency calls related to the opioid crisis increased by 88 per cent between 2015 and 2018.
The two worst months on record were November and December 2018, when staff responded to 22 and 23 calls respectively.
Committee chair Rene Lapierre asked whether the city is in a worse position than other communities.
“We notice that the trends are getting higher and higher,” Lapierre said. “Are we at the same level as other provincial and national figures? Or are we skyrocketing way above? Where does Greater Sudbury fit in?”
Roney replied that comparisons are difficult, since the only data available is 2017 stats from public health units and LHINs, which cover more than one municipality.
But she said there were 1,265 deaths provincewide in 2017, with 34 deaths locally. By comparison, there were nine deaths during the same period in Parry Sound, 22 in Algoma and 81 in Simcoe.
“No data for 2018 is out yet,” Roney repeated.
The use of Naloxone, a medication which can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, is also increasing, particularly among the public. Only nine cases saw Naxolone used by non-EMS staff in 2017, but that surged to 70 last year, as public health officials tried to prevent the rising number of fatal overdoses by making the drug more widely available.
In raw numbers, there were 58 calls to Greater Sudbury paramedics in 2015 related to an opioid overdose; last year, there were 173. The number of calls rose by 14 per cent in 2016, and 40 per cent in 2017 and 88 per cent last year.
Roney said data collected by paramedics has played a key role in developing an alert system used by the Community Drug Strategy to sound the alarm when overdoses spike.
“The alerts allow our community to be proactive … to respond to a surge in opioid oversdoses,” she said.
The system helps EMS workers prepare, as well as alerting addicts to heightened dangers from street drugs.
The alerts have been issued twice – once in August 2018, when calls surged to 19, the highest since tracking overdose calls began – and again in December, when calls hit 23.
To help deal with the problem downtown, which has been particularly affected, this year Greater Sudbury Police are adding four more officers dedicated to partrolling the area.