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January 9, 2017
Toronto Public Health holds first meeting of Overdose Early Warning and Alert Partnership
Today Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, convened the first meeting of the Toronto Overdose Early Warning and Alert Partnership. The meeting was attended by municipal and provincial organizations working to reduce overdoses in Toronto, especially in light of the growing prevalence of fentanyl and other opioids.

"Reducing overdoses is a vital public health issue for Toronto and cities are on the front lines when it comes to the growing danger of fentanyl and other opioids,” said Mayor John Tory. “All of the organizations that attended today’s meeting will be working together to improve our response to overdoses and I would like to thank them for their leadership and commitment to the safety and well-being of our residents.”

"I am very concerned about the number of people we are losing to overdoses. This issue is having a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities," said Dr. Yaffe. "Each of the groups that met today as part of this partnership have part of the overdose story in Toronto. Our hope is that by sharing information we will have a more complete picture and enable us to be more proactive."

The Toronto Overdose Early Warning and Alert Partnership includes representatives from the Coroner's Office, Toronto Police Service, the Toronto Paramedic Service, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, emergency departments, harm reduction services, and drug user groups. Attendees discussed the current status of the overdose situation in Toronto and strategies to create a real-time surveillance system. Mayor Tory also sought input on key advocacy priorities for federal and provincial action.

"The issue of drug overdoses has been before the Board of Health several times over the past couple of years, and with growing urgency. We have heard very emotional pleas from family members who have lost loved ones to overdose, and from service providers who have lost clients," said Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21 St. Paul's), Chair of the Board of Health. "The Board strongly supports the call for more action to both prevent and respond to drug overdoses in our city and we are delighted to hear that the province announced today that they will be funding supervised injection services for our city."

"People are dying in our city and these deaths are preventable," said Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina), Chair of the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel. "We know this issue is complex and requires a comprehensive approach. We need action from all government, including the City of Toronto, as well as from our community partners."

Toronto Public Health is developing a comprehensive Overdose Action Plan in consultation with the partnership and other City and community stakeholders. A status report on the action plan will be considered by the Toronto Board of Health at the January 23 board meeting. The complete report will be submitted to the Board of Health at the March 2017 meeting.

For more information about the City of Toronto's efforts to prevent and reduce the harms related to substance use in Toronto visit:

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Media Contact
Lenore Bromley
Toronto Public Health



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