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Last year nearly 2 million people in Ontario filled opioid prescriptions, representing approximately 14% of the overall population, or one out of every seven people (Health Quality Ontario, 2017).  These high volumes of opioid being made available in communities across the province have led to higher rates of misuse, abuse and overdose.  This is a concern not only for patients who are prescribed opioids but also their family members, and those who obtain these substances on the illicit market. Federal and provincial governments have recently released strategies to address some of these issues however additional action is needed at the local and regional levels. 

In December of 2016, the Windsor-Essex Community Opioid Strategy Leadership Committee (WECOS-LC) was formed, bringing together leadership and key stakeholders across many sectors to collectively address rising rates of opioid use in Windsor and Essex County. Consisting of stakeholders from public health, emergency services, law enforcement agencies, the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network, the City of Windsor, County of Essex, Windsor-Essex hospitals, addiction and mental health service providers, school boards, pharmacies, and community peer representatives, the WECOS-LC committed to the ongoing development and implementation of the Windsor-Essex Community Opioid Strategy.

The strategy was developed by the WECOS-LC in consultation with residents of the community, beginning with an environmental scan of existing community resources and best practices from other regions at the provincial, national, and international levels. This set of strategies was then further refined through a community consultation process involving two community forums and an online community feedback survey. The development process resulted in the following set of recommendations categorized under the Pillars: Prevention/Education, Harm Reduction, Treatment/Recovery, and Enforcement/Justice. Under each recommendation there are a set of short and long-term actions to be implemented by pillar-based working groups to build upon existing community resources, programs and services. The actions are as follows:

  • Support peer engagement and meaningful involvement of people with lived experience, as a critical feature for building local capacity.

Prevention and Education

  • Support all healthcare providers to lay a key role, through appropriate prescribing practices, patient education about opioids and overdose prevention and other pain management options. 
  • Provide early education and prevention about opioids and other substance use.
  • Develop a local overdose monitoring and response system. 

Harm Reduction

  • Increase access to a variety of harm reduction options for people who use opioids and those affected by people who use opioids. 
  • Address stigma associated with problematic substance use through the development of supportive polices and education of healthcare professionals, community organizations and the public. 

Treatment and Recovery

  • Work with provincial partners to advocate for increased funding to expand the capacity of the local substance use treatment system. 

Enforcement and Justice

  • Redefine the role for enforcement agencies and other first responders to build “public safety-public health” partnerships for a safer and healthier community.

Four working groups will be established to focus on actions related to each pillar (Prevention/Education, Harm Reduction, Treatment/Recovery, and Enforcement/Justice). These groups will create work plans based on the above suggested actions and will begin the process of implementing the strategy.