Opioid Overdose Update


I would like to take a moment to share a public service announcement that was released today from Ottawa Public Health regarding the ongoing efforts to reduce illicit opioid overdoses in Ottawa:



The Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force (OPRTF) is alerting the public about an increase in suspected drug overdose-related emergency department visits in Ottawa in the last 72 hours – with 15 life-threatening or potentially life-threatening suspected cases reported over that time period (April 18 to April 20).

The OPRTF monitors suspected drug overdose-related emergency department data daily to be able to appropriately respond should a sharp increase of overdose-related emergency department visits occur in the community.

An overdose is a medical emergency. Anyone who suspects or witnesses an overdose should immediately call 9-1-1, even if naloxone has been given.


In February 2017, Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Police Service issued an Alert of Potential Risk of Overdose from Counterfeit Prescription Pills in Ottawa being involved with life-threatening overdoses and deaths.


Although the OPRTF cannot confirm that these overdoses are related to intentional or counterfeit opioid-use, when a sudden increase in the number and severity of suspect drug-related emergency department visits is observed during a short period of time, there is always a possibility of counterfeit drugs being cut with opioids.


Residents are reminded of the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose:

  • Breathing will be slow or gone
  • Lips and nails are blue
  • Person is not moving
  • Person may be choking
  • You can hear gurgling sounds or snoring
  • Person can’t be woken up
  • Skin feels cold and clammy
  • Pupils are tiny


Residents who use drugs, or their loved ones, are advised of the ways to reduce their risk of overdose:

  • Avoid using drugs alone
  • Avoid mixing drugs or combining with alcohol
  • Use a small amount first to test strength
  • Use less drug(s) when tolerance may be lower (change in health status or weight, recent release from prison, treatment program or hospital)

Getting drugs from a non-medical source such as a friend, ordering online, or a drug dealer is very risky and potentially life-threatening. There is no way to know what is actually in them or how toxic they may be. Drugs should only be purchased or obtained from a local pharmacy or a registered medical professional.


To help police find the sources of counterfeit pills, it is important to report this information to police. You can call Crime Stoppers and report anonymously. Submit an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), texting CRIMES (274637), keyword “tip252”. You can also download the Ottawa Police Service app for iOS or Android.


Naloxone can buy time while paramedics are en route. You can get a take-home naloxone kit for free from pharmacies and other agencies in Ottawa. To find a participating pharmacy near you check this list of pharmacies that have naloxone. For more about overdoses and how to prevent them, visit StopOverdoseOttawa.ca

Members of the Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force, include Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Paramedic Services, Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Fire Services, OC Transpo, The Ottawa Hospital, The Royal Ottawa Hospital, Montfort Hospital, Queensway Carleton Hospital, The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario,  Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services, The Office of the Regional Coroner, Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres, Respect Pharmacy, Champlain Local Health Intergration Network, Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, Ottawa Carleton Pharmacist Association, Direction de santé publique, Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais.

Board of Health Meeting Recap


On Monday, April 3rd, the Ottawa Board of Health held its second meeting of 2017.

Updates were made to the Board on a number of emerging public health issues, including:

  • OPH participation in the annual Ontario Public Health Convention (TOPHC);
  • Health system transformation; and
  • A recent legal challenge to the City’s Water Pipe (Hookah) By-law.

The Board then considered the following substantive items:

Ottawa Public Health 2016 Annual Report

OPH released its 2016 Annual Report, which was formally received by the Board and will be rising to City Council on April 12th. This report highlights OPH’s many accomplishments from 2016.

Healthy Eating, Active Living: Protecting Vulnerable Populations Through Restrictions in Marketing of Foods and Beverages

At its meeting of February 13, 2017, the Ottawa Board of Health approved a Motion directing staff to bring forward a report outlining policy options at the municipal level further to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s “Report on Health of Canadians – The Kids Are Not Alright”, as well as a plan for engaging the community and stakeholders on same. This builds on OPH’s work with respect to Strategic Direction #1 – Inspire and Support Healthy Eating and Active Living.

In considering this report, the Board received a staff presentation and heard from 10 public delegations, all in support of the report recommendations.

From a public health perspective, OPH supports the restriction of marketing of food and beverages to children and youth and the initial steps taken by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Health Canada in addressing this issue. As a result of the Board of Health’s approval of the above-referenced report, OPH will consult with the general public, community groups, City departments and various other stakeholders, on five (5) possible policy options at the municipal level. A subsequent report will be brought forward to the Board in the fall of 2017.

Update on Opioids and the Risk of Unintentional Overdoses in Ottawa

This “walk on” report provided updates on the recent work of the Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force as well as OPH’s response to opioids and the risk of unintentional overdoses in Ottawa. In considering this item, Board members received a staff presentation and heard from one (1) public delegation.

As a result of the Board’s approval of this report, the Chair of the Board of Health and the Medical Officer of Health will send a joint letter to the federal government in support of Bill C-224, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.

In addition to the above, the Board received the following reports without discussion:

You can watch the meeting on YouTube. Every meeting is webcast live and archived videos are posted online within days of the meeting.

If you have any questions regarding the Board of Health please feel free to contact me.

Opioid Awareness Web Series

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is hosting an Opioid Awareness Web Series aimed at answering questions about prevention and response of opioid overdose in our community.


This web series will be streamed live via YouTube, with a Public Health Nurse available for questions throughout the live stream. Following the presentation, a video will be posted to StopOverDoseOttawa.ca.


The first event, calledOpioids 101”, takes place April 11th from 12-1:00 PM and will provide an overview on opioids, illicit fentanyl, signs and symptoms of overdose, and naloxone access in the community.
The second session, on How to talk to youth about drugs”, will take place April 18th from 12-1 PM and discuss Opioid overdose prevention, tips on how to “have THAT talk”, and supports in schools and community


Residents can get free take-home Naloxone kits from several pharmacies in Ottawa, and to check if your pharmacy is carrying them you can go to the Ontario Ministry of Health website here.


Please Register in advance of these series should you wish to attend.


For more information, please see StopOverdoseOttawa.ca or ParentingInOttawa.ca/StopOverdose

School Presentations on Opioids with Ottawa Public Health


As a response to the recent surge in illicit opioid overdoses in our communities, the Board of Education has partnered with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and a variety of other community groups in conducting presentations at some schools to share information with concerned parents and students.


As Chair of the Board of Health, I have been pleased to lend my support and speak with many of you at these presentations, fielding any questions.


I have also heard interest expressed by some residents unable to attend one of these information sessions for a recap of some of the information covered at these meetings. You can now find Ottawa Public Health’s presentation to these schools at the attached link.


I would like to thank the Ottawa Carleton District School Board for the opportunity to help shed some light on this difficult subject as well as OPH’s community partners, Ottawa Police Services, Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services, Youth Services Bureau, and all those who came out to share their resources with the community.
I encourage residents to reach out to Ottawa Public Health with any additional questions you may have. Awareness is the first step toward remedying any problem. Please email OPH at healthsante@ottawa.ca. I, as your Councillor, also welcome your inquiries.


Please visit www.stopoverdoseottawa.ca for more information.

Good Food Corner Stores Initiative


Ottawa Public Health is working with community partners to increase fresh produce and other good foods at corner stores in neighbourhoods that residents have barriers to accessing food.


Residents often rely on corner stores (CS) to buy food if they live in a neighbourhood that lacks grocery stores. The most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Ottawa have more CS and less full scale grocery stores per thousand people than the more advantaged neighbourhoods.


In Ottawa, 23 of 39 low-income neighbourhoods are classified as ‘food deserts’ – grocery stores and other food retailers are not available or easily accessible. There are 555 CS in Ottawa. Half of these CS (279) are located in low income neighbourhoods. Thirty seven percent of Ottawa’s residents live in these neighbourhoods.


The Good Food Corner Store Initiative brings fresh, affordable and minimally processed foods to corner stores in neighbourhoods that have barriers to accessing food.


As Chair of the Board of Health, I am thrilled to see this initiative take place and look forward to seeing just what healthy choices we will be seeing in the future. It is my hope that one day, accessible healthy choices be made available to all residents.


For more information on this and other healthy living idea, please visit Ottawa Public Health’s page on the City of Ottawa website here.

National Non-smoking Week


As Chair of the Board of Health, I am pleased to inform residents that next week is National Non-Smoking Week. The week has existed for over 30 years as an advocacy for Canadians to pursue smoke-free lifestyles and encourage existing smokers to challenge themselves to quit.


Ottawa Public Health has put together a short youtube video to build on the campaign which you can view below. Over 80,000 people in Ottawa consider themselves smokers and most of them want to quit. Next week, from January 15-21, I would like to extend the challenge to all smokers willing to accept it.

Help make 2017 a year of good health for all and look to those around you for their encouragement. With support, you can double your chances of quitting. Visit http://www.myquit.ca for more information or call 1-877-376-1701.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) a pilot trial of harm reduction dispensing units in Ottawa


OPH is exploring a pilot project to introduce harm reduction dispensing units in Ottawa. The purpose is to address the need for greater access to supplies during times of the day when agencies are closed.


This follows from studies and surveys conducted in 2013, 2014 and 2016 as well as from a report approved by the Board of Health in June 2016 on enhancing harm reduction services in our community


This is within existing budget and will be 100% provincially funded. The locations for these pilot units has not been confirmed but a few community partners have expressed their interest to participate in the pilot trial – to have a unit outside their existing services for times when services are closed.


Harm reduction services (distribution of safer drug use materials) are designed to prevent harms such as transmission of HIV and hepatitis C by reducing re-use or sharing of these materials and to connect people with support social services.


The intention is not to replace front-line services, rather to compliment them – to ensure that people can access during times of the day when services are closed. We recognize the value of front-line contact, and opportunity for support and referral to other services (mental health, treatment) and will encourage people to attend services to access this support.  We don’t expect to lose existing clients to distribution units as clients value the human contact, and rely on our nursing services such as HIV testing and referral to other community supports such as addiction counseling and treatment.

Ottawa Public Health Pyjama Fundraisor

OPH Pyjama Fundraiser 2016

On Monday December 5th Board of Health (BOH) Members participated in Ottawa Public Health’s Second Annual Pyjama Fundraiser campaign. Each BOH member donating a pair of children’s pajamas in benefit of St. Mary’s Home and the Children’s Aid Society  (CAS) to be distribute to their client-families during the holiday season.  OPH  kicked off the internal campaign – helping children in need in our community campaign on Monday, November 21st.   St-Mary’s Home supports young women to have a healthy pregnancy and birth and to help young parents gain the knowledge and skills required to raise healthy happy children. The CAS is committed to protecting children and youth from abuse and neglect, and works in collaboration with partners to ensure the well-being of these children and to strengthen the capacity of families and communities.


In addition to the collection of new PJs, OPH also collected new story books and new blankets for children three months to seven years of age. If you would like to make a donation to either of these agencies you are welcome to do so through the agencies directly or online at St. Mary’s or CAS gift program.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank OPH staff for coordinating this great initiative each year.  Their continued support and engagement with Ottawa residents is heart warming and much appreciated. As always they go above and beyond the daily duties of their jobs.

Overdose awareness campaign focuses on illicit drug use

Fentanyl Citrate, a CLASS II Controlled Substance as classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency in the secure area of a local hospital Friday, July10, 2009. Joe Amon / The Denver Post

Ottawa Public Health (OPH), in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, The Royal, Ottawa Paramedic Service, Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Carleton Pharmacist Association and Respect Pharmacy, are launching a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the risks associated with illicit fentanyl.

The presence of illicit or bootleg fentanyl has been increasingly reported across Canada.

As Chair of the Board of Health, I cannot stress enough the heightened dangers that these products, which are already significantly more toxic than pharmaceutical grade opioids but are often mixed with other drugs, pose in relation to potential overdose.

In Ontario, illicit fentanyl has been detected in heroin, cocaine, crack, in counterfeit pills manufactured to resemble prescription opioids (i.e. Oxycontin, Percocet), and in other pills including ecstasy (MDMA). Recently found in Ottawa both mixed and standalone, the drug is produced and sold on the street and has a variety of names and formulations.

It is odourless and tasteless and can be hard to detect when mixed with other substances. Even a small amount of illicit fentanyl – the size of two grains of salt – can be fatal.

Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose related to an opioid such as fentanyl, heroin and morphine. Being able to quickly recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose and having a naloxone kit available can save a life while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

An overdose is a medical emergency. Anyone witnessing an overdose should call 9-1-1.

Ottawa Public Health and its partners are urging the public to seek out the following information from this new web resource: StopOverdoseOttawa.ca. The website provides information for people who use drugs, parents, friends and families of those at risk about:

  • fentanyl and other illicit drugs (carfentanil, W-18)
  • how to prevent, recognize and respond to an overdose
  • naloxone and where to get free take-home naloxone kits and training for yourself or your loved ones who might be at risk

Take-home naloxone kits and training are available free of charge from OPH’s Site Needle & Syringe Program, many local pharmacies, The Ottawa Hospital and other community agencies.

For more information on the campaign, please visit www.StopOverdoseOttawa.ca or call the OPH Information Line at 613-580-6744.

Councillor’s View – Ottawa Public Health Initiatives

Hello Residents,

I thought I would take a moment to share with you some of the fantastic initiatives currently being undertaken by Ottawa Public Health (OPH).

Part of OPH’s plan for ensuring a healthy lifestyle includes the “Healthy Eating, Active Living” campaign. They work tirelessly in researching and promoting useful tools such as easy-to-follow recipes, menu labelling tips, and community food advisors to help provide hands-on knowledge to community groups seeking healthy eating tips.

They provide tips on maintaining physical activities in older adults, and information on the importance of regular walking or cycling

All of these informational bytes and much more can be found on the Ottawa Public Health section of the City of Ottawa website available by clicking here.

In addition, OPH has recently added a new segment to their “Have THAT Talk” campaign to help reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace as well as at home. In accordance with maintaining a healthy physical lifestyle, I highly encourage residents to also take a moment to take all the necessary steps in ensuring they are also actively pursuing a mental-health oriented life. Take a moment to peruse some of the videos as much of what is talked about may not always be common knowledge.

I would like to thank our medical officer of health, Dr Isra Levy, and his staff for their ongoing commitment to a healthy Ottawa.

As Chair of the Board of Health, it is my pleasure to continue working closely with OPH as new discussions arise and new resources are developed.

Of course, as new information is provided, I will be happy to share it as I always do with residents through my community e-newsletter. If you have any thoughts or ideas you would like to share with Ottawa Public Health, I welcome you to send your comments in my direction by emailing me at Shad.Qadri@ottawa..ca