‘Substantial’ increase in opioid-related harm, deaths in Chatham-Kent

Opioid file photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / FotoMaximum

More residents in Chatham-Kent ended up in the hospital after using substances like opioids during the pandemic than they have in years past.

A new report on Chatham-Kent Public Health says the rates of opioid-related emergency department visits and deaths have increased more than 400 per cent from 2016 to 2021.

“Factors that have contributed to the rising rates of opioid-related harm include reduced social support for people who use drugs, increased mental health challenges, and limited access to addiction treatment and harm reduction services,” read the report.

The rate of opioid-related hospital visits and deaths has more than doubled since 2019. So far this year, there have been nine deaths in Chatham-Kent from opioid poisoning.

This has put the region above the provincial average, making it one of the highest rates in the province.

“The biggest barrier preventing people who use drugs from accessing services and support is stigma,” read the report. “Other major barriers include geographic disparities to accessing services and systemic inequities associated with the social determinants of health such as housing instability, socio-economic status, gender, race, and sexual orientation.”

The report going to council Monday night recommends the municipality fund up to $28,500 from the 2020 Drug Strategy to purchase and install seven 24-hour sharps disposal bins across the community.

The funding will also be used to establish a contract with a biohazardous waste disposal company to regularly empty the bins.