New research from Niagara’s public health committee shows that the region is facing a growing opioid crisis. Emergency medical responses to overdoses from suspected use of opioid drugs grew by an astonishing 225 per cent from 2016 to 2017. Data from Niagara Region Public Health show that in 2016, “there were a total of suspected opioid overdoses, but by the end of June 2017, there [had] already been 209 suspected opioid overdoses.” In total, there were an estimated 520 suspected overdoses throughout 2017. Public Health data shows that the majority of individuals affected were adult men aged 26 to 45. Although death data is currently available for 2017, Niagara coroner reports showed that there were a total of 40 opioid-related deaths in Niagara in 2016.
Research also showed that in 2016, in cases where suspected overdoses led to death, fentanyl was present 35 per cent of the time. Also indicated by Public Health’s data was that the majority of suspected overdoses were concentrated in St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls. Distribution of naloxone kits through the StreetWorks program was also up to 420 in 2017 from 147 in 2016. Naloxone is a medication that can help alleviate an opioid overdose. In the annual state of the city speech, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik committed to fighting for a safe injection site in the city for opioid users.