Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Barrie Office
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Health, police, social services partner to address overdose, death from opioids

May 25, 2017
A broad partnership of health, social and emergency services has set the groundwork for a series of meetings to build a regional response to opioid misuse and addiction in Simcoe and Muskoka.

20150525 HealthPoliceSocialServicesPartnerToAddressOverdoseDeathFromOpioids  

Caption: Dr. Rebecca Van Iersel, Clinical Vice-President for the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (NSM LHIN), is shown along with Janice Greco representing both the health unit and the Simcoe Muskoka Alcohol and Other Drug Strategy (SMAODS), Susan Lalonde Rankin, Mental Health and Addictions Coordinator at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, and Dr. Lisa Simon, Associate Medical Officer of Health of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), during the opioid strategy working group meeting May 25, held in Barrie. About 80 representatives from the health, social service and police sectors were in attendance to begin work on developing a local strategy for addressing opioid addiction.


A broad partnership of health, social and emergency services has set the groundwork for a series of meetings to build a regional response to opioid misuse and addiction in Simcoe and Muskoka.

Dr. Rebecca Van Iersel (NSM LHIN) —
“The North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN and our partners are very concerned about these trends. While we have several opioid-related initiatives underway across Simcoe and Muskoka, we need to work with our partners to develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses and coordinates action on prevention, harm reduction, treatment, enforcement and surveillance throughout our region.”

Opioids—both prescription and illicit—already having significant impact on individuals and families across Simcoe Muskoka, Dr. Lisa Simon, Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said.

Dr. Lisa Simon (SMDHU)—
“From 2012 to 2015, there were, on average, 35 opioid deaths per year in Simcoe Muskoka, with 43 deaths in 2015. With opioid poisoning emergency visit rates in Simcoe Muskoka significantly higher than the provincial rates since 2004, there is an urgent need to respond collaboratively to turn this trend around.”

Partners at the meeting shared what their respective organizations are currently doing about addictions to prescription and illicit narcotics, where gaps exist, and where each other’s strategies can be leveraged. The Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy will build on provincial plans in a manner that’s locally relevant.

Janice Greco from the Simcoe and Muskoka Alcohol and Other Drug Strategy, said their group was pleased to see this initiative established to deal specifically with opioids.

Janice Greco (SMAODS)—
“SMOADS has seen success with its own collaborative model,” Greco said, “so we know that bringing many partners to the table will make a difference in dealing with the challenges related to the current opioid crisis.”

Dr. Rebecca Van Iersel—
“I will be perfectly honest, this is a huge task. This is a huge problem.  And the possibility and impact to our community if we get it ‘right,’ or even start to crawl along the right path, is such a light on the horizon. I know that local residents will benefit from our coordinated efforts to prioritize this work.”

The working group has agreed to meet in follow-up to continue planning a strategy.

Importance of the local strategy meeting is borne out by the data in the new provincial Interactive Opioid Tracker, released yesterday by Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins.




Media contacts:

John Challis, Media Coordinator                            Jessica Dolan

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit                    Communications & Social Media Associate                                        North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN

705-721-7520, ext. 7239                              

Cell 249-877-4629                                                  705-326-7750 ext. 243


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