Mike Stark is calling for action to battle opioid crisis

(Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / Novic)

A city/county councillor wants to see more done to tackle the opioid crisis. Mike Stark said the time for talking is over.

During Wednesday’s Lambton County Council Committee meetings, the city/county councillor put his support behind a letter from the Timiskaming Health Unit and Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Units endorsing a set of recommendations for the provincial government to address the escalating opioid crisis across Ontario, including the creation of a multisector task force to guide the development of a robust provincial opioid response plan, and expanded access to opioid agonist therapy.

“It seems that everyone recognizes that it’s a problem, but nobody seems to be doing anything in terms of a coordinated approach which brings together the policing aspect and social services aspect,” said Stark. “Somebody needs to take control of this and institute some kind of actions as opposed to simply talking about this.”

Sarnia City Councillor Mike Stark September 5, 2019 Photo by Melanie Irwin

Sarnia City Councillor Mike Stark September 5, 2019 Photo by Melanie Irwin

Lambton Public Health’s Manager of Health Promotion Michael Gorgey said the Lambton Alcohol and Drug Strategy has been developed and is in the draft stages. He said unfortunately, the pandemic forced the implementation of the strategy to be put on hold.

“It is basically in place to be launched, it’s just within our communications division trying to dot the i’s, cross the t’s and our hope is to have that launched by the end of the year,” said Gorgey. “It was very informed and multifaceted by 30 plus agencies, plus wide community consultation including Lambton County Council.”

Stark said while he understands the pandemic had an impact on the implementation of the strategy, the deaths have not stopped.

“We have a report that talks about the incidence of drug use and deaths in Lambton County, which are at an unbelievably higher level than the rest of Ontario,” he said. “And it says to me that whatever we’ve done to this point, is clearly not enough.”

In 2020, there were 42 opioid related overdose deaths in Lambton County, the highest local annual death toll for opioid overdose on record. Preliminary data for 2021 shows 37 confirmed overdose related deaths, and during the first quarter of 2022 there have been nine fatal opioid overdoses.

When comparing monthly rates of opioid-related deaths, local numbers continue to exceed the provincial average for most of 2020 through 2022.