The opioid crisis is real and it is happening in Chatham-Kent, and working off a motion from Coun. Brock McGregor from August, municipal council intends to address the issue of funding during the next budget deliberation.
In a report to municipal council recently, Director of Public Health Teresa Bendo outlined the prevalence of drug-related health and mental health issues and the lack of dedicated local resources and co-ordination to move forward on a drug strategy.
In her report, Bendo said the Chatham-Kent Drug Awareness Council still works on education, but since a Trillium Grant ran out, lacks the funds to hire a dedicated project co-ordinator to pull together area organizations to move drug strategy framework recommendations forward.
“The Chatham-Kent Drug Awareness Council continues to meet as a network today, but has scaled back work to focus primarily on education and knowledge exchange. At present, no community organization or group is responsible for, or able to sufficiently support, the collection action required to move the framework recommendations forward,” Bendo wrote in her report.
Citing Chatham-Kent statistics regarding substance use, the report outlines the increase of emergency department visits and hospitalizations over the past 10 years due to substance use and addiction, not only here but across the province.
Locally, substance use and addiction is the second leading cause of all mental health related ED visits and the third leading cause of all mental health related hospitalizations.
Bendo reports that from 2015-2017, it was the primary cause of nearly 1,500 ED visits and 200 hospitalizations. Treatment service use is higher among local residents on a per population basis than the rest of the province. In 2017/2018, there were more than 700 people with an open admission to a provincially funded substance use treatment service.
According to community partners in Chatham-Kent, the biggest concern is the ongoing prevalence of crystal methamphetamine use and related harms.
“In a recent assessment by Chatham-Kent Public Health, all 25 stakeholders interviewed reported crystal methamphetamine use as a significant issue and service gap in the community,” Bendo reported. “Ongoing challenges include lack of available resources for service providers, lack of evidence-based treatment options, and a lack of knowledge and experience around how to effectively work with those who use crystal methamphetamine.”
More statistics show that overdoses of opioids are also an issue for ED visits. In 2017, there were 58 ED visits, 26 hospitalizations and five deaths in Chatham-Kent due to opioid poisoning. From 2003 to 2017, the rate of ED visits from opioid poisoning increased 225 per cent and hospitalization 25 per cent.
The report also looks at indicators and in 2017, more than 16,000 C-K residents were dispensed opioid prescriptions for pain, a rate nearly one and a half times higher than the province, “increasing the potential risks for opioid-related harms in the community.”
The need for a comprehensive drug strategy and the resources – funding and staffing – to make it happen will be the subject of budget deliberations in 2020. The report forecast a co-ordinator salary of approximately $110,000 for a municipally led drug strategy.