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Sudbury to hold leadership summit on opioid epidemic

Council voted to create a local leadership conference to address the issues of the opioid epidemic in Sudbury after a presentation by Ontario’s Chief Coroner

When introducing Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, to council on June 13, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre quoted provincial Labour Minister Monte McNaughton as he spoke of the effects of opioids in the province. 

“Ontario is in the middle of an opioid epidemic,” Lapierre quoted. “And every one of these deaths is preventable.”

Lapierre told the councillors that he invited Huyer to speak on the opioid crisis after he saw a need to “think outside the box”, to go beyond “anti-stigma campaign, awareness and education, naloxone distribution, drug warnings, supervised consumption sites, accessible treatment, proactive, informed enforcement and more.”

He said Sudbury, along with other northern communities, continue to experience alarmingly high and rising rates that are “triple those in our southern counterparts.” 

Huyer was appointed chief coroner in 2014, having served as a regional coroner since 1992. 

In his presentation, he offered statistics showing that opioid deaths in Sudbury are the result of “polysubstance use” (the use of more than one drug), toxic or adulterated substances, and the fact more people who use drugs in Sudbury are choosing to smoke, or inhale, rather than inject substances. 

Deaths in Greater Sudbury are also on the rise once more. 

Since 2013, said Huyer, there's been 483 people in the Great Sudbury Area who have died from opioid toxicity. 

The term ‘toxicity’ can refer to an overdose through the overconsumption of a substance, typically a drug, but it can also refer to the adulteration of the illicit drug supply with other substances, some of which are also drugs, that can lead to higher-than-expected incidences of overdose.

In Sudbury, “the rate of opioid toxicity death has increased by almost 200 per cent since 2018,” said Huyer. Ontario has only had a  60-per-cent increase, he said, adding “Sudbury is also higher than Northern Ontario’s increase as well. So it is very notable.” 

Between 2018 and 2022, there was an increase in Sudbury from “26 deaths per year to 116 passing last year in 2022,” which he said represents a 346-per-cent increase.  

He said that fentanyl is involved in a majority of these deaths, and that polysubstance use is clear. 

“We see cocaine and methamphetamine involved in many and at a greater percentage than we see in the rest of Ontario,” said Huyer. “The change to more inhalation is also notable,” he said, stating the increase in people who use drugs by inhalation rather than injection is increasing and beyond the average in Ontario.

He said the demographics show that opioid deaths are highest amongst those aged 30 to 49. 

There was also a measure he offered showing that 16 per cent of individuals who died of toxicity in Sudbury had some treatment with either methadone or suboxone and 12 per cent had received some other form of treatment, whether it was inpatient rehab, detoxification, or other other mechanisms of treatment. 

“And this is similar to what we see across Ontario,” he said. 

As to solutions, Huyer said there is no one size fits all approach. 

“It's complex; it's multifactorial — there's no single simple solution, and many people will come to a single solution that they think will fix everything,” he said. “The reality is, there needs to be a continuum of care, a continuum approach across many different types of intervention.” 

After the presentation, Lapierre put forward a motion to hold a local leadership summit on the opioid crisis, with a look to October to hold the conference. The executive committee of the Community Drug Strategy for the City of Greater Sudbury (CDS-CGS) has also strongly endorsed the need for a local leadership summit on the escalating drug toxicity crisis.

At the end of the presentation, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini sought to question the presenter but was unable to formulate one in the allotted time. He attempted to ask another question later, but as the call to vote had been issued, he was denied. Vagnini was the lone vote against the motion. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with 


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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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