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Durham Opioid Crisis: 127 suspected overdose calls in 42 days

Regional Chair John Henry

Durham Paramedic Services fielded 127 calls for suspected opioid overdoses from January 1 to February 11—72 more calls than this time frame in 2023, according to John Henry, Regional Chair and Chief Executive Officer.

“We’ve seen a 67 per cent increase in homelessness here. Yes, we are doing what we can, but we can’t keep up. We’re opening a 45-bed shelter with wrap-around supports; planning for revitalization of our community housing stock; and exploring mixed-use affordable housing on regional land,” he said yesterday in an issued statement while calling for more funding to address both the homelessness and opioid crises.

Henry pointed out that there are many reasons why people may end up in crisis. “But the sad fact is that we are seeing it much more often. Our local hospital network reported more than 14,000 emergency department visits for mental health issues and substance abuse. The situation is putting strain on our emergency services.”

Funding welcome

Henry applauded the province for responding with urgent funding to help. “It is absolutely the right thing to do. And we gratefully acknowledge the one-time increase to federal homelessness funding that will help unsheltered individuals this winter,” said Henry.

However, he said, Durham needs long-term solutions to meet the need. “We invite the Prime Minister and Premier of Ontario to meet with Durham Regional Council to discuss this crisis, the challenges and proposed solutions here in our community.”

He said the region has developed a policy paper that outlines solutions. Ideas that would allow all levels of government to come together, now. To make meaningful impacts in the lives of residents.

“This is a serious situation that requires immediate action. We have impactful solutions that can be put in place quickly. By working hand-in-hand with senior levels of government,” the Regional CEO said.

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