On Monday, February 27th, in my capacity as Chair of the Board of Health, I had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting a public information session along with my fellow west-end councillor colleagues, Allan Hubley, Eli El-Chantiry, Marianne Wilkinson, and Scott Moffat on the recent trend of illicit and dangerous opioid drugs such as Fentanyl that have made their way to Ottawa.
The meeting was very well attended with over 250 concerned parents, residents, and City officials joining together with the shared goal of bringing education to the forefront and protecting our communities from potent opioids that have already taken too many lives.
We were joined by representatives from Ottawa Public Health (OPH), Ottawa Police Services (OPS), Ottawa Paramedics, Youth Services Bureau (YSB), and many other community partners, who all provided unique insight and resources for individuals and families.
I was excited to see so many residents coming together with optimistic attitudes to learn despite these unfortunate circumstances and one of the major takeaways from the meeting was just how much energy and passion is coming out of our communities. It is that same energy which we, as public health ambassadors, must now capture and channel into tackling this emerging issue.
As mentioned at the meeting, illicit fentanyl has been detected in Ottawa and it poses an increased risk of overdose in very small quantities. It is tasteless, odourless, and near impossible to visually distinguish when mixed in other drugs.
Many parents have expressed challenges in speaking with their children about drug use, as well as a desire for schools to increase their messaging on this topic. For these reasons, I, along with Ottawa Public Health, will enhance our current work in the schools to reach youth and other outreach activities to reach parents, including messaging on our Parenting in Ottawa website, to support parents in talking to their children about drug use, and to connect them to resources in our community. In addition to this, I will continue to work with Ottawa Public Health to champion the StopOverdoseOttawa campaign to continue to educate the public, including parents, on how to prevent overdoses from happening in our communities.
I also heard concern regarding the lack of contiguous data on the subject. With data regarding overdoses being collected and reported from multiple different agencies and in different time frames, and specific details being omitted from public knowledge due to the request for privacy by affected families, it is difficult to present information that is ‘real-time’ across multiple channels. Once again, I will bring this concern forward with Ottawa Public Health to see what can be done to remedy these challenges while respecting the privacy of those who are managing their own difficult encounters with these opioids.
With respect to any additional treatment resources, it is important to remember that the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has a coordinating role. However, I have been advised that Detox beds are available at the Queensway Carleton Hospital and the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre for individuals looking for withdrawal management services. There may also be some capacity in facilities that are more centrally located or further east.
Learning the signs of symptoms of overdose and having a naloxone kit available can save a life while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Naloxone kits are available free of charge at local pharmacies.
We need to work together as a community to properly prevent this issue from escalating any further. I welcome any additional resident insight with experiences regarding Fentanyl and other illicit opioids. Please share your ideas with me at Shad.Qadri@ottawa.ca. You can also learn more about Fentanyl and its risks at www.StopOverdoseOttawa.ca.
I would like to thank my councillor colleagues for helping to host this event as well as our community partners, Dr. Isra Levy with OPH, Deputy Chief Steve Bell with the OPS, and Mr. Anthony Di Monte, General Manager of Emergency and Protective Services on behalf of Ottawa Paramedic Services for their contributions, and every community member who took the time to attend.