September 4, 2019

The opioid overdose emergency is affecting communities right across Ontario. Overdoses and deaths from opioids are on the rise. It is not an issue confined to a few areas. The emergency is playing out in urban, rural, northern, and remote settings. Addiction to both prescription and illegal opioids is taking a toll on individuals, families, and entire communities. The prevalence of addiction and the incidence of injuries and deaths associated with opioid use disorder have increased in recent years. Addictions are often concurrent with mental health disorders.

Municipal governments, District Social Service Administration Boards and local Public Health agencies are contributing to solutions on the ground. However, municipal services, including public health, social services, police, fire and paramedics across Ontario, are already under great pressures to keep up and combat rising opioid-related harms and death rates. Local responses to the opioid overdose emergency need provincial leadership and support. The time for action to address this health emergency is now.

With the provincial government developing a Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, there is opportunity to direct specific attention to the opioid overdose emergency through an overall drug strategy. With this in mind, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is providing a broad range of recommendations to inform a provincial response. These recommendations have been adopted by AMO’s Board of Directors based on the advice of AMO’s Health Task Force, aided by an Expert Municipal Working Group on Opioids. The membership of these groups is outlined in Appendix A and B. They included representatives from various municipal sectors involved in the local response including public health, paramedics, police, and social services.