Tomorrow marks International Overdose Awareness Day, which is marked every August 31st. It started in Melbourne, Australia in 2001, with the core message that overdose deaths are preventable. That message has since spread around the world.
International Overdose Awareness Day is a day to remember the people lost to drug overdoses and to recognize the grief of the loved ones left behind. It also aims to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of drug overdose deaths.
Public Health Ontario says there were 1,337 confirmed opioid-related deaths in the province between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. And, according to the federal government’s most recent data reported as of May 15, 2019, that number is going up.
And yet, the Ford government’s policies are oblivious to this crisis. During his first year in office, Doug Ford cancelled the opening of three new overdose prevention sites in St. Catharines, Toronto and Thunder Bay. He also shelved proposed safe injection sites in Toronto, despite Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health saying this will result in more overdose deaths.
The opioid crisis is one that is deeply felt by us here at OPSEU. Our members from a number of different sectors — ranging from corrections to health care to first responders – see this crisis first-hand every day on the job and, in some cases, are put in very dangerous situations. Just this past May, several of our corrections officers at Sarnia Jail had to be rushed to hospital after they came into contact with Fentanyl while helping three inmates who consumed the potent drug.
And that’s why on this International Overdose Awareness Day, we are calling on the Ford government to do the right thing and support public services that will give people the help they need so we can actually prevent these preventable tragedies.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, First Vice-President/Treasurer