Toronto’s medical officer says opioid deaths have ‘doubled’ despite challenges in accurate data reporting

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health says the number of reported opioid overdose deaths in Toronto during late spring/early summer of 2017, “nearly doubled” compared to the same time in 2016.

However, during the city’s Board of Health meeting on Monday, Dr. Eileen De Villa said there are still challenges in gathering numbers that truly represent the opioid crisis in the city.

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“Those who choose not to engage or cannot engage with the formal health system, those circumstances are not represented,” De Villa told councillors. “Effectively, these data is the data we have but it under-represents what is going on.”

READ MORE: Toronto to speed up opening of supervised injection sites after spike in drug overdose deaths

During the period between May and July of 2017, preliminary data from the Office of the Chief Coroner reported 82 opioid overdose deaths compared to 44 reported in 2016.

Meanwhile, more current data involving paramedic calls and emergency visits have seen a decline from the summer through to the end of December.

“Those calls ranged between 31 to 111 per week, including at least 94 fatal cases during that five-month period of available data,” said De Villa.

De Villa revealed 1,977 visits to supervised injection sites between August and December with 20 potentially fatal overdoses reversed.

The Works Needle exchange in the public health building on Victoria distributed 2,367 naloxone kits to drug users.

There were 23 opioid deaths reported among the homeless.

READ MORE: Mayor Tory ‘extremely concerned’ over vast number of recent overdoses across the city

At the end of Monday’s board meeting, councillors voted in favour of a series of meetings to discuss the expansion of both self-injection and overdose prevention sites with the city’s frontline harm-reduction organizations.

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