Ottawa harm reduction program director: New strategy needed to prevent more opioid deaths
The director of the Oasis Program at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre says it’s time for Ottawa to rethink its strategy around curbing opioid use and drug-related deaths.
Rob Boyd told 1310 NEWS’ The Rick Gibbons Show, the main problem has become the toxicity of the local drug supply.
Listen to the full conversation with Boyd:
Ottawa paramedics responded to six overdoses in which three people died Monday, and in a couple of those cases, the users didn’t realize the cocaine they were using had fentanyl in it.
Opioid users are typically characterized as being part of marginalized populations, but Boyd said drug users exist across the city and in the case of the most recent overdose deaths, many were simply recreational drug users who didn’t realize the risk of taking unregulated drugs.
Boyd suggested there have been no signs that local drug overdoses are slowing or stopping since city investments in drug treatments and safe consumptions sites.
“Essentially fentanyl has outflanked us in our strategy, so we really need to rethink how it is that we’re approaching this,” explained Boyd. “For those who are dependent on drugs, we need to shift them away from the unregulated market and provide them access to a safe supply of pharmacutical drugs, so that we can significantly impact the number of overdoses that are happening in the city.”
The harm reduction program director equated the local drug problem to that of a tainted water supply; if a city’s water supply was unclean, bottled water would be brought in to make sure no one got sick.
Boyd thinks drugs should be decriminalized for personal use, but said, at very least, the city needs to come up with a way to get a regulated drug supply to those who are dependent, and then those people can be worked with to manage their drug use.